Former 1-800-GET-THIN Doc: 'I Live in Constant Remorse'

Julian Omidi gets 7 years behind bars for hawking unnecessary surgeries, defrauding insurance firms
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
Man Behind 1-800-GET-THIN Lands in Prison
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/OKrasyuk)

The man behind 1-800-GET-THIN has been sentenced to seven years in prison for a fraud scheme that saw insurance companies billed nearly $120 million for forged sleep studies and unnecessary surgeries. Charged in 2018, Julian Omidi, 54, of West Hollywood, California, was convicted in December 2021 of 28 counts of mail fraud, as well as wire fraud, identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and making false statements, per Courthouse News. Government prosecutors said the former dermatologist who lost his medical license in 2009 instructed others to alter patient data to raise their body mass index above a critical threshold and to falsify sleep studies so it would appear patients suffered from severe sleep apnea and therefore required Lap-Band surgery.

Per the Los Angeles Times, Omidi submitted nearly $120 million in claims with insurance providers, including the US military's health care program, and his business received at least $41 million. Omidi could have been sentenced to life in prison under federal guidelines due to the significant financial losses "intended" to his victims, but prosecutors asked for 22 years. They said Omidi, a well-educated man from a wealthy family who was motivated by greed, wielded power "over mostly low-wage workers in [a] chaotic, high-pressure, and almost abusive environment," per CN. Omidi's lawyers asked for as few as two years, arguing the actual losses were far less than what the government claims were intended, and that many of the surgeries may have still been medically necessary. They also cited Omidi's lack of criminal history.

US District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee decided on seven years Monday, citing her belief that "federal guidelines for fraud convictions were disproportionate," per CN. Before sentencing, Omidi said he was sorry and ashamed. "I live in constant remorse," he said. "I worked hard all my life and tried to do the right thing. I didn't want to harm anyone." The Times reports five patients died after Lap-Band procedures at centers affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN. Omidi could face up to $98 million in restitution and forfeiture, which will be decided at a later hearing. Gee will also decide on a fine for Omidi's company, Beverly Hills-based Surgery Center Management LLC, which she sentenced to a five-year probation period on Monday, per the Times. (Read more fraud stories.)

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