FDA investigating Calif. Lap-Band clinics

Oct. 23, 2012 at 8:14 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- A chain of southern California weight-loss surgery clinics is under investigation by several federal and state law enforcement agencies, court documents say.

The owners of the clinics, Michael and Julian Omidi, are also under investigation, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The company that advertised as 1-800-GET-THIN is being investigated for numerous potential violations of federal law, including healthcare fraud, wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering, said Samanta Kelley, a special agent for the Food and Drug Administration's criminal division, in an affidavit filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

Public records indicate five people died from 2009 to 2011 following Lap-Band surgery at clinics tied to the ad campaign.

The FDA warned 1-800-GET-THIN this year the ads were misleading because they did not mention the risks of the surgery. The company took down the ads.

The manufacturer of the Lap-Band, Allergan Inc., has stopped selling the device to clinics affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN.

A pending lawsuit filed by two former workers alleges the Omidi brothers committed fraud by billing for procedures that either were never done or were not medically necessary.

Tiffiny Burrows, a nurse at a clinic affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN, was arrested in June when she attempted to sell medical records of two patients who died after Lap-Band surgeries, Kelley said in an affidavit.

An attorney for the Omidis said he believed no charges would be filed against his clients. He said the affidavit stated Burrows had considered using the documents to extort money from the Omidis.

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