Almost a decade after Bill Reynolds and Mark Sersansie first heard of one of California's most outrageous medical scams, they found some of the patients claiming to be still suffering the devastating consequences of the scam.
"After the surgery it was just painful days," said patient Derika Moses. "I could not sit, I could not walk, I could not be a parent."
"I did not want to live anymore," said patient Gisela Fabila.
" You did not want to live anymore?" Alex Ferrer, presenter of "Whistleblower", asked.
"No. Once, I planned," I'm going outside and running "- said," I'm going to kill … "Fabila recalled in tears.
Ferrer, a police officer, a lawyer and As the judge became aware, on the journey from Sersansie and Reynolds, viewers from the Southern California hospitals rushed to the homes of patients who had the consequences of this fraud in the latest "Whistleblower" episode "The Billions in Dollars." Back Surgery: Patients in Pain and Danger, "aired on CBS on Friday, June 21
Together, the men would uncover an illegal scheme where middlemen were paid to treat patients with back problems from occupational accidents, and doctors were paid to carry out spinal surgery in certain hospitals.
"One of the doctors … wanted … Super Bowl tickets, flight and hotel," Sersansie said who worked in sales for a Californian medical supply company.
Many patients said the fraud left them in excruciating pain from surgery. Some say they do not need it.
"This was a medically completely unnecessary surgery that was performed," said the patient Josh Lash.
Eventually, they would find out that hospitals not only had the cost of treating excessive spinal hardware, but in many cases dangerous fake hardware implanted in the backs of innocent people.
"I look at bills ranging from $ 350,000 to $ 475,000," said Reynolds, a medical fraud investigator.
Moses has removed much of her spinal hardware. "We had experts," she said, "who identified my screws as fake screws."
Fake screws were mixed with FDA-approved screws manufactured by a reputed South Korean medical device manufacturer.
"These screws enter the bones of patients … small pieces of these threads can break off in people's bodies and end up in their tissues," said lawyer Justin Berger. "It can cause serious complications."
Berger presents the patients who were interviewed by "whistleblowers," Sersansie and Reynolds, and others who were sued for the fraud.
"The pain has traveled to my neck, up to my shoulders," said Moses. "I'm sure it's because of the fake hardware that's been stabbed in my back."
" Do you think your doctor knew the hardware was fake?" Ferrer asked the patient group.
"Yes, absolutely," they answered.
" Each of you said that without hesitation," Ferrer noted. "Why do you think that?"
" Greed, money," Moses replied.
"It's important to whistle on it," Reynolds said. "Someone has to step forward and draw attention to the extent of this problem."
You can not tell how many people have had the fake hardware implanted because, according to lawyer Justin Berger, "you would have to open your back, remove the screws, and have someone examine them to see if they faked them or not because they did not properly track the lot numbers. "Some estimate that the number of patients implanted with the knock-off hardware could be hundreds, if not thousands.
There was a criminal investigation into the operation called Operation Spinal Cap, and the Department of Justice stated that the fraudulent allegations related to this system spanned 15 years, cumulating more than $ 950 million. Dollars amount. The deal involved $ 40 million in illegal setbacks paid to physicians and other healthcare professionals to transfer thousands of patients for operations in California hospitals.
One of the project's architects, Michael Drobot, the former owner of Long Beach Pacific Hospital, is currently serving five years in federal penitentiary and is forfeiting $ 10 million. Paul Randall, another key fraud figure, worked with the federal government, spent less than a year in jail, and was released.
One of the most shocking sentences was Californian Senator Ron Calderon. Calderon was convicted of accepting bribes in return for influencing California lawmakers in order to keep this lucrative gap open – which allowed for excessive hardware reimbursements. He was sentenced to 42 months in prison and served less than two years. Nobody was charged with knowledge of the implantation of counterfeit spinal hardware.