Family in GET-THIN probe fights for $109 million in seized funds.
An attorney representing three people behind the defunct Lap-Band surgery enterprise said the seizure was unjustified and frustrating to his clients
Five patients died following surgeries at clinics affiliated with the ad campaign, according to lawsuits, autopsy reports and other public records. Several law enforcement agencies have been investigating the owners of the businesses behind the ad campaign for possible healthcare fraud, money laundering and tax violations, according to court filings and prosecutors’ statements in related court cases.
No charges have been filed, but prosecutors said this month at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that an investigation is continuing. In a court motion, prosecutors said the seized money is “traceable to a long-term fraud scheme.”
“It’s a big criminal investigation and there were a lot of seizures of data and evidence, in addition to the money here, and that investigation is ongoing,” he said.
Judge Wright dismissed a motion seeking the return of the seized money filed on behalf of Cindy Omidi — whose sons operated the 1-800-GET-THIN business — and several irrevocable trusts.
Umhofer, the Omidis’ attorney, said he intends to appeal Wright’s ruling. He said an affidavit that prosecutors filed in a request to seize the funds was sealed by a judge, so he does not know the grounds under which the warrants were obtained.
“Our position is the money was obtained lawfully and the government did not have probable cause to seize it,” Umhofer said. “We want to challenge it, and the government is denying us that opportunity.”
Although prosecutors have not yet brought a criminal case related to 1-800-GET-THIN, they did file an unrelated case against Cindy Omidi. She was convicted last year by a federal jury of violating laws designed to prevent money laundering. She is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.
In September 2014, UnitedHealth Group Inc. sued Michael and Julian Omidi, alleging that they operated a network of companies that tricked the insurer into paying more than $40 million in claims for medical procedures that were unnecessary, ineligible for coverage or never even performed.
The Omidi brothers have denied wrongdoing. The surgery centers had previously sued UnitedHealth, alleging that the insurer failed to pay for tens of millions of dollars in surgeries it had agreed to cover. Both cases are pending.