Two Los Angeles doctors have been arrested following a 37-count federal indictment alleging mail and wire fraud, false statements, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. The allegedly $250 million bogus billing scheme was built around 1-800-Get-Thin Lap-Band surgeries.
Money Laundering Arrests Two Lap-Band Doctors
Julian Omidi, 49, and Mirali Zarrabi, 55, were arrested and charged following a large-scale scheme involving Get Thin’s Lap-band that lasted from May 2010 to March 2016. The Lap-Band is a silicone ring that is surgically implanted around the stomach as a means of discouraging overeating.
“The scheme outlined in the indictment focuses on bogus sleep studies that the defendants utilized to engage in a much more lucrative fraud involving Lap-Band procedures,” said acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “Patients were harmed as a result of this fraud scheme when they were subjected to unnecessary medical procedures, and insurance providers were harmed when they paid out tens of millions of dollars after receiving fraudulent bills.”
According to the indictment, Omidi established procedures that required prospective Lap-Band patients to take a sleep study. Employees were even offered commissions to ensure the sleep studies occurred – even for patients who had insurance plans that would not cover Lap-Band surgeries.
The sleep study results were used to convince patient’s insurance companies that the Lap-Band procedure was needed. Insurance companies would then, based on the sleep study results as well as other falsified information, including patient’s heights and weights, approve the payment for the Lap-Band surgery. The indictment alleges Get Thin received at least $38 million for the Lap-Band procedures.
Zarrabi and Omidi “victimized countless patients when they allegedly provided medically unnecessary treatment in order to boost their own profits to the tune of tens of millions of dollars,” said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
Misrepresenting and/or falsifying documents
California’s law against forgery relates to offenses concerning misrepresenting and/or falsifying documents in a financial transaction. Examples of forgery include the act of signing a document without the rightful owner’s approval, consent, or altering a document. Creating a fake document can also be considered forgery. Any legal paper such as a check, bond, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, money order,which is illegally altered, can be considered a forged document.
Among the more commonly seen forged documents are driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, and ID cards issued by government agencies. Another common act of forgery involves writing a bad check, which means making, drawing, altering, or delivering any check or draft upon any bank or depository for the payment of money, knowing that there are insufficient funds.
Forgery always has the intent to defraud as its root cause. It is a form of identity theft and is considered a white-collar crime in the state of California.
How Forgery Can Be Charged
Forgery can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the circumstances. In many cases, if the amount of the check is under $200.00 and the defendant has no prior theft related charges on their record, the offense is charged as a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum of one year in jail. Higher dollar amounts are usually charged as a felony, and there is the possibility of a term in state prison. This state prison sentence may be extended due to certain enhancements of the penal code for this offense.
Any conviction in California may include fines and probation. As a very serious offense, a forgery conviction can result in a permanent legal record.
If you have already been charged with forgery, or are being investigated for it, contact an experienced criminal attorney immediately.
Money laundering is a crime that involves moving illicit money into legitimate channels in order to disguise the money’s illegal source and avoid tax officials. Some forms of criminal activity, such as drug smuggling, yield large amounts of cash, leaving the criminals with the problem of what to do with the vast amounts of money they earn. One solution is to take this “dirty” money and channel the funds through bank accounts of legitimate businesses. Other money laundering activities include transactions such as bank deposits, withdrawals, fund transfers, wire transfers, payments, and other financial activities. Sophisticated use of current technology creates paper trails in money laundering cases that may not only be more complex; they may also be more difficult to uncover because many financial transactions are completed entirely using anonymous means like bitcoins. Embezzlement and fraud may also be associated with money laundering.
California Money Laundering Laws: Penal Code Section 186.10 PC
Money laundering is a serious federal crime that involves taking money that has been unlawfully obtained and working to integrate it so it may appear to come from a lawful source. A defendant may face money laundering charges brought under federal laws or California state laws. Those charged with money laundering also may face racketeering/RICO charges if they are involved in organized crime.
Penal Code Section 186.10 PC contains the following elements:
1. The defendant completed a transaction or a series of transactions through a financial institution.
2. The total amount of the transaction(s) must be more than $5,000 in a seven day period OR more than $25,000 in a 30 day period
3. The transaction(s) was made with the intent to promote criminal activity or the defendant knew that the funds involved were from the proceeds of criminal activity.
Money Laundering under Penal Code 186.10 PC is a “wobbler,” which means that a prosecutor can file either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the factual circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history.
Misappropriation of Funds
As is often the case in many crimes, misappropriation of funds requires that prosecutors must prove to a jury certain number of points or elements of the crime. Misappropriation of funds has four:
1. Control but not ownership. The prosecutor must show that the owner of the property entrusted or gave the money to the defendant, or otherwise allowed the defendant control over it. In short, the defendant rightfully had possession, but not ownership.
2. Intent. First, a person must knowingly misappropriate the money, and cannot commit the crime by making a mistake or error. It can be enough for a prosecutor to show that the accused intended to take any action that results (or would likely result) in the misappropriation of funds.
3. Conversion. In order to commit misappropriation of funds, a person must not only take the money but must use it for his own purposes. Even transfer of money to a bank account or the refusal or failure to hand over the owner’s money when the owner demands it is considered misappropriation.
4. Return. A person who misappropriates funds with the intent to later return the money to the rightful owner is still guilty of misappropriation. It also doesn’t matter if the misappropriation only lasted for a short amount of time.
Working with a Defense Attorney
The criminal defense lawyers at Daniel Perlman Law in Los Angeles will put our experience to work for you. We believe every defendant has the right to a zealous defense. We offer free initial consultations and will usually quote a flat fee that will cover all the services necessary for your case, including trial. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, call 877-887-4541 or contact us by e-mail.