In 2009, Julian Omidi, a former dermatologist, had his medical license revoked for engaging in dishonest and unprofessional behavior. Just a few months later, in February of 2010, Omidi would go on to launch a controversial weight loss program and begin a multi-million dollar scheme of fraudulent insurance claims.
On Monday, Omidi, 54, was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for submitting nearly $120 million in fraudulent insurance claims in relation to his business, 1-800-GET-THIN, which sold and promoted weight loss through Lap-Band surgeries.
“Omidi deliberately and repeatedly acted with an eye towards business and profits, rather than in the interest of GET THIN’s medical patients, by inducing patients to undergo medical treatment premised on fraud rather than medical necessity, including surgeries that carry significant risks and life-long health impacts,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada, in a statement.
As part of the insurance scheme, Omidi had prospective patients undergo at least one sleep study — and then instructed employees to falsify results to get the client’s insurance company to pre-approve the procedure, according to court documents. If insurance companies did not approve the surgery, Omidi still submitted bills for the sleep studies, which cost about $15,000 a pop. Prosecutors estimate that insurers paid an estimated $41 million to Omidi’s 1-800-GET-THIN business throughout his scheme.
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“Omidi was well educated; he had every opportunity to be successful and make ethical decisions. However, driven by greed, he committed some of the most unconscionable and atrocious acts,” Tyler Hatcher, special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a statement.
The “safe, one-hour” procedure promised patients a quick, easy route to weight loss using a Lap-Band. However, from 2010 to 2014 Michael Hiltzik of The Los Angeles Times reported on five cases of patients dying after receiving Lap-Band surgeries at clinics affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN.
In addition to the prison sentence, Omidi’s Beverly Hills-based company, Surgery Center Management LLC, was put on five years of probation.
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