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J&J pays $9.75 million to settle alleged kickbacks to Massachusetts surgeon

Prosecutors say the doctor was given free spinal surgery devices in return for him using their products during procedures in Middle Eastern countries.

A Johnson & Johnson logo on its New Brunswick, N.J., campus.Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

Two subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson have agreed to pay $9.75 million to the federal and state governments to settle allegations they broke the law by providing a Massachusetts-based spine surgeon with free medical devices to get him to continue to use their products.

DePuy Synthes and DePuy Synthes Sales, based in Raynham, allegedly provided more than $100,000 in free spinal surgery equipment, including implants, cages, rods, and screws, from July 2013 through February 2018.

The surgeon was not identified in the lawsuit or settlement, nor was the hospital where he is based. A spokeswoman for US Attorney Rachael S. Rollins declined to provide those details.

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The physician allegedly used the equipment in at least 20 operations in six Middle Eastern countries, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

“Today the United States resolves allegations that DePuy provided over $100,000 worth of free product to a surgeon in order to secure and reward that physician’s continued business,” said Rollins.

DePuy violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act by providing the free products, according to prosecutors. The kickbacks, they said, defrauded Medicare and Medicaid.

The complaint was brought by Aleksej Gusakovs, a sales representative for J&J in Massachusetts, under a law that enables whistle-blowers to sue companies for fraud on behalf of the federal government. Under the terms of that law, Gusakovs will receive more than $1.8 million of the settlement.

Royston Delaney, the Boston lawyer for Gusakovs, said J&J fired his client after he complained about the alleged financial irregularities and safety issues.

“He put his career on the line,” said Delaney.

In a statement DePuy Synthes said, “We have fully cooperated with the government throughout its investigation of the allegations and were credited for that cooperation in the settlement. … We are committed to ensuring our employees conduct business in a way that complies with our credo and with all laws and regulations.”

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Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jonathan.saltzman@globe.com.