It is not only practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) who can be fraudulent charlatans. The study of medicine does not protect you from joining in. Here is an impressive case in point:
It has been reported that a former doctor convicted of fraudulently submitting nearly $120 million in claims related to the 1-800-GET-THIN Lap-Band surgery business has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison.
Julian Omidi, 58, of West Hollywood was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee. The judge also imposed a five-year probation period on Surgery Center Management LLC, an Omidi-controlled Beverly Hills-based company. In the coming weeks, Gee is expected to hold a separate hearing to decide on restitution and forfeiture in the case, along with setting a fine for the Beverly Hills company.
“Mr. Omidi made millions at the expense of the multiple victim companies he defrauded, and he violated his oath to ‘do no harm’ by callously misleading patients about the need for a sleep study and subsequent weight loss surgery,” said Donald Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.
Omidi controlled several entities in the GET-THIN network. Prosecutors say Omidi incentivized employees to ensure patients underwent sleep studies and then falsified the results to show that patients had obstructive sleep apnea to help them qualify for insurance coverage for the weight loss surgery. Those results were then filed with insurance companies to pre-approve the Lap-Band weight-loss surgeries. The 1-800-GET-THIN business received approximately $41 million for those procedures, according to prosecutors. While not all patients were approved to receive the surgery, prosecutors say GET-THIN would bill the patient roughly $15,000 for each sleep study, totaling $27 million in payments from insurance providers.
Omidi and his Beverly Hills-based company, Surgery Center Management, were found guilty of 28 counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Omidi was also found guilty of two counts of making false statements relating to healthcare matters, one count of aggravated identity theft, and two counts of money laundering after a 48-day trial in downtown Los Angeles.
“As found by the jury, the defendant Julian 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 U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada. A series of Los Angeles Times columns from 2010 to 2014 detailed how five patients died after they received Lap-Band surgeries at clinics affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN. During a 2009 inspection, the Department of Health and Human Services found unsanitary conditions, inoperative scrub sinks, one-time-only equipment being reused, and several other deficiencies. The inspector shut down the clinic for a day, but further action was not taken at the time.
Omidi’s medical license was revoked in 2009, and he was arrested. In 2014, federal agencies seized more than $110 million from the 1-800-GET-THIN network in securities and funds.
This is a spectacular case, of course. Yet, I fail to see how it differs in principle from the many instances we see on a daily basis in the realm of SCAM. Let me give you just a few examples:
- A chiropractor diagnoses subluxation and subsequently treats his patient with a series of spinal manipulations.
- A naturopath uses iridology to diagnose a weakness of the liver and subsequently treats it with herbal remedies.
- An acupuncturist diagnoses a blockage of chi and follows it up with a series of acupuncture sessions.
- A Heilpraktiker employs bioresonance to diagnose an intoxication which he then treats with a detox program.
The strategy is always the same:
- Charlatans use bogus diagnostic methods.
- They make bogus diagnoses with them.
- They then start expensive and often dangerous treatments.
- They make good money by defrauding the system.
Could someone please explain what the difference in principle is between the case of the fraudulent surgeon and the average SCAM practitioner?