Identify Theft Charges for Disgraced Former Orthopedic Surgeon

Signing Bonus WHO ARE YOU? Former orthopedic surgeon Spyros Panos is accused of stealing the identity of another doctor.

A former orthopedic surgeon who was stripped of his medical license and sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison after an October 2013 conviction in a multimillion dollar healthcare fraud case now faces charges that he impersonated another doctor.

Spyros Panos allegedly collected more than $860,000 by posing as the legitimately licensed orthopedic surgeon — who was once Mr. Panos's medical colleague — so he could perform independent workers' compensation case reviews.

The latest round of charges against Mr. Panos include wire fraud, healthcare fraud and aggravated identity theft. Dr. Panos faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

Officials say Mr. Panos used the other doctor's identity and credentials both before and after being released from prison in 2016. Dr. Panos was convicted in 2013 in an unrelated case in which he admitted to lying for years "about the nature and scope of surgical procedures" he performed in order to fraudulently bill Medicare as well as private insurers inappropriately for millions.

"With jaw-dropping hubris, this disgraced former physician engaged in a health care fraud scheme while serving a federal sentence for yet another healthcare fraud," New York State Workers' Compensation Fraud Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott says in a statement. She went on to note almost with amazement what she called Mr. Panos's "clear disdain for making an honest living."

Richard Abowitz

Plastic Surgeon and Allergan Settle Fraud Accusations

Cataract Surgery VESTED INTEREST Dr. Max Lehfeldt was allegedly on Allergan's payroll to promote and research the company's SERI surgical scaffold system.

A plastic surgeon and Allergan have reached financial settlements with a woman who accused the doctor and company of conspiring to experiment with the off-label use of a tissue scaffold system during her breast reconstruction surgery.

Wendy Knecht of Los Angeles, Calif., who had undergone double mastectomies because of her high genetic risk of developing breast cancer, claimed in a lawsuit that Max R. Lehfeldt, MD, FACS, used Allergan's SERI surgical scaffold and Natrelle breast tissue expanders, even though the scaffold system was not FDA-approved for use during breast reconstruction procedures or with Natrelle's device. She says the devices failed, leaving her disfigured and requiring 3 addition surgeries to remove the devices and repair the physical damage.

Ms. Knecht's lawsuit alleged that Dr. Lehfeldt was a paid consultant to Allergan, owned stock in the company and had earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for serving as the SERI system's primary physician promoter. She accused Dr. Lehfeldt of medical negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, lack of informed consent and fraud. She also accused Allergan of negligence, fraud and failure to warn about the off-label use of its device. Dr. Lehfeldt reached a $1 million settlement with Ms. Knecht, according to her San Diego attorney Robert Vaage. Allergan reportedly settled the charges for an undisclosed amount.

Ms. Knecht claims she was unaware at the time of her surgery that Dr. Lehfeldt was a principal investigator in an FDA-backed study designed to assess the use of the Allergan and Natrelle devices during breast reconstruction procedures.

"When a surgeon has extensive financial ties with a device manufacturer and is involved in an ongoing clinical trial, he has a duty to divulge that information to his patient," says Mr. Vaage. "[My client] did not have any of the protections she would have had as a knowing participant in a clinical trial.

"There's just no scientific proof or clinical evidence that the SERI surgical scaffold is safe to use in breast reconstruction surgery," adds Mr. Vaage. "Dr. Lehfeldt knew that and Allergan knew that. Unfortunately, Ms. Knecht did not."

Dr. Lehfeldt and an Allergan spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Daniel Cook

Ex-Neuro Surgeon Sues Newspaper for Libel and Defamation

Sterilizing Instruments NOT TRUE Ex surgeon says the Seattle Times ruined his reputation by falsely reporting he was paid by volume and conducted concurrent surgeries.

The former head of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, Wash., has filed a libel and defamation lawsuit against the Seattle Times for falsely reporting that he conducted concurrent surgeries and was paid by his surgical volume. The suit also names Charles Cobb, MD, as a defendant claiming he and another doctor at the institute conspired to ruin his reputation.

An investigation by the Times last year reported that as the institute moved to increase case volume under the leadership of Johnny B. Delashaw Jr., MD, employees faced retribution for reporting concerning practices and decreases in patient care that led to a rise in complications and patient deaths. Dr. Delashaw resigned from the institute 3 weeks after the report and the state suspended his license 2 months later. The suspension came after the Medical Quality Assurance Commission found evidence that Dr. Delashaw intimidated staff, which made them reluctant to question his practices putting patients at risk.

The lawsuit filed by Dr. Delashaw claims the Seattle Times falsely stated that he was paid by volume and ignored an eyewitness account that refutes he conducted concurrent surgeries. The suit also cites an email exchange between Dr. Cobb and another doctor at the institute in which they plot retribution against Dr. Delashaw for loss of income and authority under his leadership by inventing complaints that would worry the Institute's management. The 2 doctors and a forensic analyst hired by one of them claim the email exchange is fabricated.

The suit prohibits the Times and Dr. Cobb from making false statements about Dr. Delashaw and asks that the Times remove the false statements from its website. Dr. Delashaw never requested a correction to the original articles according to the Times.

The law firm representing Dr. Delashaw declined to comment on the suit. The Seattle Times and lawyers for Dr. Cobb did not respond to requests for comment.

JoEllen McBride, PhD

InstaPoll: Ever Cancel a Case Because of Missing Instruments?

Have you ever had to cancel a case due to a lack of instruments or supplies? Tell us in this week's InstaPoll.

If you count instruments both before and at the end of the case, you're like 93% of last week's 340 poll respondents.

When do you count instruments?

  • all surgeries 43%
  • laparoscopic surgeries 2%
  • open abdominal surgeries 50%
  • never 5%

Dan O'Connor

News & Notes

  • Exparel approved as post-op shoulder block Exparel has received FDA approval for use as an interscalene brachial plexus regional block. The bupivacaine liposome injectable suspension, which was originally approved by the FDA in 2011 as a single-dose analgesic shot at the surgical site, can now be used to manage post-op pain in patients undergoing upper-extremity surgeries, including shoulder arthroplasty and rotator cuff repair.
  • Health system billed outpatient cases an inpatient procedures Banner Health paid the United States more than $18 million to settle a False Claims Act allegation that 12 of its hospitals in Arizona and Colorado knowingly billed Medicare for more costly short-stay, inpatient procedures that should have been billed as outpatient procedures.
  • Vaginal mesh lawsuit A jury awarded a woman who claimed a vaginal mesh device implanted to treat pelvic organ prolapse left her in constant pain $35 million in punitive damages. The manufacture of that device, C.R. Bard, still faces another 150 lawsuits in state court as well more than 3,000 suits consolidated into a Federal case expected to go to trial next year.