Neurosurgeon pleads guilty to $11M fraud for unneeded surgeries
Birmingham doc admits to $11M fraud for unneeded surgeries (Detroit Free Press)
A Birmingham neurosurgeon pleaded guilty today to performing unnecessary spinal surgeries on patients and then unlawfully billing the government and private insurance companies $11 million for the operations, the U.S. Attorneys office announced today.
Dr. Aria Sabit, 39, entered guilty pleas in two separate cases before U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, admitting he convinced patients to undergo spinal fusion surgeries with medical stabilizing devices that he actually never used, but billed public and private healthcare programs for it. In some instances, Sabit admitted that he billed insurance programs for implants, when in fact the implants were tissue.
Since 2011, Sabit owned and operated the Michigan Brain and Spine Physicians Group with various locations in metro Detroit, including Southfield, Clinton Township and Dearborn. He pleaded guilty to four counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, resulting in losses to Medicare, Medicaid and various private insurance companies.
Sabit will be sentenced in September. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he faces between nine years and 11-plus years (135 months) in prison.
His lawyer was not readily available for comment.
“This case of health care fraud is particularly egregious because Dr. Sabit caused serious bodily injury to his patients by acting out of his own greed instead of the best interests of his patients,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement. “Not only did he steal $11 million in insurance proceeds, but he also betrayed his trust to patients by lying to them about the procedures that were medically necessary and that were actually performed.”
According to the government, Sabit also admitted that, prior to moving to Michigan from California, he was involved in a kickback scheme in which he convinced a California hospital to buy spinal implant devices from a company that he was secretly involved in. Sabit said he became involved with that company, Apex Medical Technologies, while he was on the staff of a California hospital in 2010.
Sabit admitted Apex paid neurosurgeons lucrative illegal kickbacks tied directly to the volume and complexity of the surgeries that the surgeons performed, and the number of Apex spinal implant devices the surgeons used in their spine surgeries. In exchange for a chance to invest in Apex and share in its profits, prosecutors said, Sabit admitted that he convinced his hospital to buy spinal implant devices from Apex and use a sufficient number of Apex spinal implant devices in his spine surgeries.
Sabit, meanwhile, is facing is two civil False Claims Act cases brought by the Department of Justice in California.