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Ex-California doctor convicted in weight-loss insurance scam

December 17, 2021


A former Southern California doctor was convicted Thursday of falsely billing military and private insurers $355 million for weight-loss surgeries.

Julian Omidi, 53, of West Hollywood and his Beverly Hills-based company, Surgery Center Management LLC, were convicted by a federal jury of three dozen counts of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements related to health care matters, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

A second physician, Dr. Mirali Zarrabi, 59, of Beverly Hills, was acquitted of all charges, prosecutors said.

Omidi and his relatives controlled the now-defunct 1-800-GET-THIN business that promoted and performed lap-band surgeries, prosecutors said.

Between 2010 and 2016, Omidi convinced insurers to pre-approve the surgeries by having prospective patients undergo sleep studies to determine if they had sleep apnea, a “co-morbidity” that might justify the procedure, prosecutors alleged.

Omidi sometimes had his employees falsify the study results and other information, including the patients’ weights, prosecutors said.

Private insurance companies and Tricare, a health program for members of the military were billed for an estimated $355 million and paid out some $70 million for the lap-band procedures and sleep studies, prosecutors said.

The defense blamed the fraud on a company manager, Charles Klasky, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2017, testified for the prosecution and awaits sentencing.

Omidi could face up to 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced in April.

Omidi’s state medical license was revoked in 2009. In 2014, the government seized more than $110 million in funds and securities from accounts held by Omidi and others allegedly involved in the scheme.

The government is seeking forfeiture of some or all those funds, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

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