Surgeon avoids prison, ordered to pay $866K after pleading to role in mesh scheme

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United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, New York. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

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  • Dr. Christopher Walker got time served after admitting to paying kickbacks for patient referrals
  • Surgeries were part of a scheme that materialized after transvaginal mesh MDL settlement

(Reuters) - A Florida surgeon who admitted to being part of a scheme to get a cut of settlement funds paid to women who had transvaginal mesh implants avoided prison but was ordered to turn over more than $866,000 in profits at a hearing in Brooklyn federal court on Friday.

Dr. Christopher Walker, a urogynecologist from Windermere, Florida, was sentenced to time served after he pleaded guilty to paying bribes and kickbacks in exchange for referrals to operate on women who had the implants, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.

Walker spent just under two months in jail in 2020 after a magistrate judge revoked his bond when prosecutors claimed he asked a witness not to turn over emails and other information to the government.

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U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie ordered Walker to forfeit $866,787, but the judge has yet to issue a ruling on potential restitution, according to the spokesman and Walker’s attorney, Jodi Avergun of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

Prosecutors had recommended between 97 and 120 months for Walker, saying the kickbacks called “into great question the quality of medical care” he provided his patients – but that the government was not seeking to prove the surgeries were unnecessary.

Walker was charged in 2019 along with Detroit-based surgical funding consultant Wesley Barber after prosecutors said the pair were part of a scheme involving transvaginal mesh implants that materialized after a settlement was reached in 2013 in multidistrict litigation over the products.

The scheme involved connecting women who had the implants to medical financiers who would pay for their removal surgery in return for a portion of the women’s subsequent settlement funds, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said the women were misled about the implants’ risk and the need for their removal and were told they needed to travel to pre-selected doctors.

Throughout the case, Walker maintained that the surgeries he performed were medically necessary, and Avergun said she told the court that the prosecutors had never presented any evidence to the contrary.

Of Walker’s sentence to time served, Avergun said, “Justice was served. Even though late, it was served today.”

The case is United States v. Barber, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 1:19-cr-00239.

For Walker: Jodi Avergun of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

For the government: Elizabeth Geddes, Sarah Evans and Andrew Estes of the Department of Justice.

Read more:

Doctor, surgical funder admit to roles in transvaginal mesh fraud

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