Convicted felon Michael D. Drobot, who used to live in a $6 million Corona del Mar mansion but now resides in the Taft Correctional Institution in Kern County, pleaded guilty on July 24 to new federal charges of selling off his expensive cars and keeping the profits to himself, in defiance of a court order that he forfeit whatever proceeds he earned from the sales because of his earlier conviction in a health care fraud scheme that involved nearly $1 billion.
Drobot’s been charged with wire fraud, engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity, and criminal contempt of court, according to a July 24 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California. Drobot will be arraigned in a few weeks in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. He faces 50 years in federal prison, on top of the five he was already sentenced to in early 2018.
“Drobot pleaded guilty in 2014 to charges of conspiracy and paying illegal kickbacks, admitting that he orchestrated a wide-ranging fraudulent kickback scheme where paid more than $50 million in bribes to doctors to steer hundreds of millions of dollars in spinal surgeries to his hospital” Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, stated the U.S. Attorney’s news release. “Drobot ultimately profited millions of dollars from the scheme. According to his plea agreement filed on Tuesday, in January 2018, Drobot was sentenced to five years in federal prison and was ordered by the court to forfeit $10 million to the United States government and to partially satisfy the forfeiture by selling his 1965 Aston Martin, 1958 Porsche, and 1971 Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Drobot was ordered to perform this obligation by July 5, 2018. Instead, from June 22, 2018 until September 14, 2018, Drobot intentionally violated the court’s forfeiture order in an effort to keep his criminal proceeds, the plea agreement states.”
Drobot first bought the 184-bed Pacific Hospital back in 1997, then changed its focus to spinal surgeries for workers comp patients. In 2013, the Wall Street Journal listed it as one of the most prolific hospitals in the nation for such surgeries. The paper reported that the hospital performed 5,138 spinal infusion surgeries by 2012, and billed $533 million for them–three times more than other hospitals for similar surgeries.
Drobot was facing a great deal more time than just five years for his part in the fraud scheme, but in 2014 he agreed to a plea agreement in exchange for testifying against then-state Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello). Drobot admitted paying tens of thousands of dollars in kickbacks to Calderon.
“As part of the underlying health care fraud scheme for which he was imprisoned, Drobot paid bribes to California State Senator Ronald Calderon in exchange for Calderon performing official acts to keep the spinal pass-through law on the books,” states the U.S. Attorney’s news release. “Calderon served a 3½-year sentence in federal prison after admitting that he took bribes from Drobot and undercover FBI agents. Prosecutors have charged 17 individuals and obtained 10 convictions as part of Operation Spinal Cap, which targets a long-running health care fraud scheme that generated nearly $1 billion in fraudulent claims to federal government, California state, and private insurers. Drobot spearheaded the scheme.”
Click here for our 2014 story that went into more depth on Drobot and Calderon.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.