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Medical funder ordered to pay $1.3 mln in transvaginal mesh fraud scheme


  • No prison time for man who admitted taking kickbacks for referrals
  • Scheme linked to nationwide transvaginal mesh settlement

(Reuters) - A Michigan medical funder was ordered to pay about $1.3 million on Monday for his role in a scheme to convince women to have unnecessary surgery to remove their transvaginal mesh implants in order to profit from settlements between mesh manufacturers and patients.

Wesley (Blake) Barber, who previously admitted to taking kickbacks in exchange for referrals to surgeons, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie in Brooklyn to forfeit more than $1.1 million in proceeds from the scheme and to pay about $200,000 to victims, but avoided jail time, according to a spokesman for the office of U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. He was also sentenced to probation and 400 hours of community service.

"We thought it was a fair resolution for Blake's role in everything," said Trey Flynn of NeJame Law, a lawyer for Barber, adding that the mesh was a "dangerous product" and that the doctors who performed the surgeries were highly qualified.

A Florida surgeon who was charged with paying Barber kickbacks, Christopher Walker, was ordered in January to turn over more than $866,000, but also avoided any jail. Prosecutors had sought prison time for both men.

Transvaginal mesh implants, once marketed as a treatment for pelvic organ prolapse, have been the subject of thousands of lawsuits claiming they caused pain, inflammation and other problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019 halted sales of the devices, but did not recall already-implanted devices and has warned that removal can lead to complications.

According to an indictment, Barber, Walker and unnamed co-conspirators sought to profit from a 2013 global settlement between transvaginal mesh makers and patients by convincing women to have their implants removed, often by making false claims about the dangers they posed. Barber's companies would loan money for the surgeries up front secured by future recoveries from the settlement, which offered higher payouts to patients who had removal surgeries than those who did not, prosecutors said.

Women were falsely told that they would need to travel to have the surgery done by doctors involved in the scheme, when in fact it could have been done locally, according to prosecutors.

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

For Barber: Trey Flynn of NeJame Law

For the government: Elizabeth Geddes, Sarah Evans and Andrew Estes of the United States Attorney's Office

Copyright © 2022, Reuters

Source: Reuters

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