Two California doctors charged in $250M lap-band fraud scheme

Businessman in handcuffs with his back turned
The two doctors were charged with mail and wire fraud, false statements, money laundering and aggravated identify theft. (Getty/Image Source)

Two California doctors were arrested and charged in a $250 million billing scheme involving lap-band surgeries to help patients lose weight.

Julian Omidi, 49, of West Hollywood, whose license was revoked in 2009, and Mirali Zarrabi, M,D., 55, of Beverly Hills, were named in a 37-count federal indictment alleging numerous criminal charges stemming from GET THIN’s Lap-Band surgery and sleep study programs between May 2010 and March 2016, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

The two men were charged with mail and wire fraud, false statements, money laundering and aggravated identify theft.

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The indictment alleges the doctors encouraged bogus sleep studies that helped 1-800-GET-THIN fraudulently bill insurance programs for more than $250 million related to the bariatric surgery business.

Two corporations controlled in part by Omidi were also named in the indictment unsealed last week.

Omidi established procedures that required prospective Lap-Band patients, even those covered by insurance plans he knew would never cover the surgery, to have at least one sleep study, according to the indictment. Employees were offered commissions to make sure the sleep studies were conducted.

The sleep studies were done to find a co-morbidity, such as sleep apnea, that GET THIN would use to convince insurance companies to pre-approve the procedure.

The indictment alleges that GET THIN received at least $38 million for the Lap-Band procedures. Even if the insurance company did not authorize the surgery, GET THIN still was able to submit bills for approximately $15,000 for each sleep study, receiving millions of dollars in payments for these claims, according to the indictment.

Insurance companies fraudulently billed in the scheme included TriCare, Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Cigna and others.

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