California orthopedic surgeon among 15 indicted for largest fraud scheme in state history

A Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon was one of 15 people indicted for a decade-long scheme that billed insurance companies $150 million for botched surgeries and services that were never performed, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The 132 felony charges outlined in two separate indictments exposed deep-seated corruption led by Munir Uwaydah, M.D. According to one indictment, Uwaydah, who was arrested in Germany last week and is awaiting extradition, allowed an unlicensed physician's assistant to perform surgeries on patients while he was not in the operating room. According to the LA District Attorney's Office, at least 21 patients "sustained lasting scars" as a result, and required additional surgeries to fix the botched surgeries.

Additionally, a number of patients underwent surgeries that were not medically necessary, after Uwaydah and others allegedly altered MRI tests and insurance authorization reports. Uwaydah and his business partner, Paul Turley, are also accused of paying as much as $10,000 a month to marketers and attorneys in exchange for patient referrals. Twelve of the people arrested, including Uwaydah, face life in prison if they are found guilty.

Authorities also identified Kelly Soo Park, Uwaydah's office manager and personal assistant, as another key player in the scheme. According to the Los Angeles Times, Park was acquitted in 2013 on charges that she strangled Uwaydah's 21-year-old ex-girlfriend in 2008. At the time, prosecutors alleged that the woman was killed days after her father ended business negotiations with Uwaydah, and after the surgeon made six-figure payments to Park and her family.

The latest indictments round out a year in which surgeons and hospital executives were nailed for outlandish fraud schemes. In August, executives at Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago were sentenced for a multi-million dollar kickback scheme that led to unnecessary ED admissions and intubations. Earlier this summer, the infamous Detroit oncologist, Farid Fata, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for administering unnecessary doses of chemotherapy.

For more:
- here's the LA District Attorney's announcement
- see the two indictments (one) (two)
- read the LA Times article