The federal government has been increasingly saber-rattling about its intention to criminally prosecute high-level executives who steer pharmaceutical and medical device makers into fraudulent waters. A few days ago, the federal government followed through on its tough words, when it obtained a guilty plea from a former vice president of a medical device company for allegedly paying illegal kickbacks to health care providers. Specifically, the government alleged that Orthofix executive Thomas Guerrieri violated the federal anti-kickback act, 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(b)(2)(B), when he “facilitated a ‘consulting’ arrangement” with one of the company’s highest prescribing surgeons, in which the surgeon allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars for little or no work. The government maintained that the real purpose behind these payments was to induce the surgeon to prescribe (and continue to prescribe) the company’s bone growth stimulators.
According to criminal information, in 2007, the unnamed surgeon became concerned that he had never completed paperwork relating to the consulting arrangement, and he instructed Guerrieri and another company official to create and backdate time sheets, describing tasks that the surgeon had not performed.
Of particular note, Orthofix currently faces civil litigation under the False Claims Act pending before the same court, and under the terms of the plea agreement, Guerrieri has promised to cooperate with the government.
More information for whistleblowers is located at the Nolan & Auerbach, P.A. website.