Health

Feds arrest former Ventura surgeon, claim unnecessary surgeries, fraud

File photo: A spinal surgery operation in Southern California.
File photo: A spinal surgery operation in Southern California.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Federal authorities have arrested a former Ventura surgeon on charges that he allegedly defrauded Medicare for millions of dollars by performing unnecessary spinal surgeries, The Detroit News reported Monday

Dr. Aria Sabit was arrested Monday and could face 10 years or more in prison if convicted, the newspaper reported, adding that he will be held without bond until a Dec. 1 hearing. 

The Detroit News also reported:  

He is accused of using various businesses and medical practices to perpetuate the alleged fraud, including Michigan Brain & Spine Physicians Group. The firm allegedly billed health care programs for services that were not provided or overcharged for the services, according to the criminal complaint.

Sabit is accused of performing lumbar spinal fusions on numerous patients and failing to use the medical device. When patients followed up with other doctors, X-rays found no devices had been implanted during surgery, according to FBI Special Agent Peter Hayes.

Sabit's lawyer Mark Kriger told The Wall Street Journal that his client will enter a not guilty plea. 

KPCC reported in June that Sabit was one of the targets of a federal Department of Justice investigation into possible kickbacks related to a spinal surgery scheme.  In September, the Justice Department sued Sabit and three investors in a spinal implant distribution company, accusing them of a scheme that involved unnecessary or overly extensive spinal surgeries that were fraudulently billed to Medicare.

Sabit relocated to the Detroit area in 2011. In August of this year, the California Medical Board stripped him of his license to practice in the state, accusing him of performing unnecessary spinal surgeries and other misdeeds.

The government wants Sabit held in jail pending trial, The Detroit News reported. Citing the federal criminal complaint, the paper said Sabit had tried to fly to from Atlanta to Dubai in September, and while customs agents in Atlanta questioned him, they found a ruby and a 3.6-carat emerald in his luggage.