New York - A surgical funding facilitator and a licensed urogynecologist were charged in a six-count indictment unsealed Friday for their roles in an alleged scheme to defraud women across the United States in connection with surgeries to remove transvaginal mesh (TVM) implants related to mass tort litigation.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office made the announcement.
Wesley Blake Barber, 49, of Detroit, Michigan, the owner of Surgical Assistance Inc. and Medical Funding Consultants LLC, and Christopher Walker, M.D., 49, of Orlando, Florida, and owner of MedSurg Holdings LLC, were charged in an indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and one count of violating the Travel Act. Both defendants were arrested this morning. Barber is expected to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Rebecca Rutherford of the Northern District of Texas at the federal courthouse in Dallas, and Walker is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory Kelly of the Middle District of Florida at the federal courthouse in Orlando. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York.
According to the indictment, Barber and Walker sought to profit in connection with lawsuits filed around the country relating to alleged harm that TVM implants caused women. The alleged scheme sought to take advantage of settlements in these lawsuits in which women who had their TVM implants surgically removed were entitled to receive larger settlements than women whose inserts remained implanted. As part of the scheme, women around the country were allegedly enticed into agreeing to undergo removal surgeries after scheme participants allegedly fraudulently told the women, among other things, about the risks of the TVM implants and the need to travel long distances and incur significant debt in order to undergo the surgeries. In addition, Walker and others allegedly paid kickbacks and bribes to Barber in exchange for the referral of these women for surgeries.
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI. Trial Attorney Andrew Estes of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes of the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case.
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 14 strike forces operating in 23 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.