In 1999, when the singer Carnie Wilson broadcast her gastric bypass surgery live on the Internet, the public’s reaction was “only in Los Angeles.” 22 years later, everyone broadcasts their weight loss journey on the Internet, and gastric bypass surgeries are among the less gruesome sights you will see if you idly scroll through videos on YouTube or Facebook. More importantly, weight loss surgery has become just a normal part of medicine.
You don’t have to be a celebrity to have a gastric bypass; in fact, many health insurance companies cover it, including the notoriously stingy Tricare. Insurance companies will only cover the procedure if it is medically necessary, meaning that the patient already has, or is at high risk of developing, other obesity-associated conditions that require equally costly treatment over the patient’s lifetime, such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, or fatty liver disease. One such qualifying condition is obstructive sleep apnea, which can be life-threatening if untreated; to diagnose a patient with obstructive sleep apnea, doctors must conduct a sleep study.
It is obvious to anyone who has spent more than ten seconds in Los Angeles that the weight loss industry is big business. This month, one of L.A.’s superstar weight loss doctors was convicted of health care fraud for billing health insurance companies more than $300 million for medically unnecessary sleep studies and weight-loss surgeries. If you are facing criminal charges for healthcare fraud, contact a Los Angeles fraud crimes defense lawyer.
Julian Omidi Convicted of Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Making False Statements, and Money Laundering
Anyone who has visited Los Angeles has seen the billboards for the 1-800-GET-THIN network of weight loss clinics; Julian Omidi’s face is familiar from these billboards. The 1-800-GET-THIN clinics have attracted their share of controversy; for example, Omidi’s medical license was revoked in 2009 after several patients died from complications of weight loss surgery. Even after the revocation of his medical license, Omidi remained involved with the business aspects of 1-800-GET-THIN.
Omidi was arrested in 2018 and charged with 28 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, two counts each of money laundering and making false statements, and one count of aggravated identity theft. The charges stem from Omidi’s role in billing insurance companies for expensive sleep studies to determine patients’ eligibility for weight loss surgery. In some cases, the sleep studies were medically unnecessary, as the patients had no symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.
In other cases, Omidi ordered sleep studies for patients whose insurance plans do not cover weight loss surgery under any circumstances. In some instances, Omidi falsified patients’ medical records to make them appear eligible for weight loss surgery. By the time of his arrest, insurance companies had suffered a total of $355 million in losses due to his fraudulent claims.
Omidi and a co-defendant, Mirali Zarrabi, both pleaded not guilty. Whereas Zarrabi was acquitted, Omidi, whose age news reports give variously as 53 and 58, was convicted on all counts. His sentencing hearing will take place in April 2022. He could face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. The identity theft charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years and cannot be served concurrently with any other sentences.
Contact Manshoory Law Group About Fraud Crimes Defense
A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are being accused of defrauding health insurance companies. Your initial consultation is always free, so contact us at Manshoory Law Group in Los Angeles, California, or call (877)977-7750 to discuss your case.