Cape Girardeau neurosurgeon, his fiancée to pay $825k in lawsuit settlement

A former Cape Girardeau doctor and his fiancée will pay $825,000 to resolve a federal lawsuit connected to his neuro-surgery practice
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 2:08 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 8:31 AM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - A southeast Missouri neurosurgeon and his fiancée have agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit settlement.

According to a release from U.S. Justice Department, Dr. Sonjay Fonn and Deborah Seeger, of Cape Girardeau, and their professional companies, Midwest Neurosurgeons, LLC and DS Medical, LLC, agreed to pay $825,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging they violated the False Claims Act by soliciting and receiving kickbacks from spinal implant companies.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit alleged Fonn, Seeger and their companies received remuneration from spinal implant companies in return for arranging for the use of those companies’ products in Fonn’s surgeries.

The Anti‑Kickback Statute is intended to ensure that medical providers’ judgments are not compromised by improper financial incentives.

“The Anti-Kickback Statute plays a critical role in ensuring the integrity of medical care provided to federal health care program beneficiaries,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in the release. “Treatment decisions should be determined by beneficiaries’ medical needs, not by kickbacks provided to their surgeon.”

In a released statement through Dr. Fonn’s attorney, the lawsuit was originally instigated primarily by other neurosurgeons in Cape Girardeau who were competitors of Dr. Fonn.

Dr. Fonn’s attorney stated the settlement was agreed to in order to avoid the expense and emotional toll of a second trial. He said the government was originally seeking more than $20 million.

“We are very grateful to my many patients and my employees who stood by us through these challenging times,” said Dr. Fonn.

U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming for the Eastern District of Missouri said this case took nearly a decade of hard work by her office, the whistleblowers, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, the FBI and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

According to the release, the civil settlement includes the resolution of claims brought under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Paul Cairns, Dr. Terry Cleaver, Dr. Kyle Colle, Dr. Scott Gibbs, Dr. Paul Tolentino, Dr. Kevin Vaught and Daniel Henson.

Under those provisions, a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of any recovery. The share to be paid to the private parties has not yet been determined in this matter.

According to the Department of Justice, tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement, can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).