FBI: Indicted doc stashed cash in kids’ bank accounts
Detroit – — A Bloomfield Hills doctor charged with fraud in a series of spinal surgeries allegedly laundered money by stashing as much as $600,000 in his kids’ bank accounts, according to the FBI.
FBI Special Agent Peter Hayes aired the allegation in a federal search warrant affidavit unsealed this week in U.S. District Court. Hayes wanted permission to seize money in the two accounts, saying there was probable cause to believe the money was proceeds of fraud and money laundering.
The accounts were held in the names of Dr. Aria Sabit’s 8-year-old and 10-year-old children, according to a search warrant that hints that money earned by the doctor’s alleged fraud could be used to bankroll a flight from justice. It is unclear how much money, if any, was seized by the FBI.
The search warrant was unsealed while Sabit waits to hear whether U.S. District Judge Paul Borman will release him from custody pending trial on charges that could send the doctor to federal prison for 10 years or more.
Sabit has offered to post a bail package worth $2.5 million, surrender his family’s passports and live under house arrest if Borman releases him from jail.
Sabit’s defense lawyer Joseph Niskar declined comment.
Sabit is accused of cheating insurers and patients by promising certain spinal surgeries but performing other procedures on the back.
He has been in custody for more than a month. Prosecutors fear he’ll flee to Afghanistan or elsewhere if he’s released on bond. His lawyers say he’s not going anywhere.
He surrendered his California medical license last summer after similar malpractice allegations.
Sabit allegedly defrauded the Medicare health care program for seniors of millions of dollars by performing unnecessary spinal surgeries on patients, according to federal court records.
He is accused of performing lumbar spinal fusions on numerous patients and billing insurers despite failing to install medical devices in patients whose pain continued after surgery.
He is accused of using various businesses and medical practices to perpetuate the alleged fraud, including Southfield-based 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.
Besides his firm, Sabit had medical privileges at several other locations, including Detroit Medical Center, Doctor’s Hospital of Michigan in Pontiac and McLaren Lapeer Regional Medical Center.
The complaint references five former Michigan patients, four of whom were told by Sabit that they needed to undergo spinal fusion surgery.
“Subsequently, after continuing pain, all patients received second opinions from other doctors stating that no such spinal fusion had been performed and there was no evidence of any screw, or any medical device in the spinal column of the patient,” Hayes wrote in a court filing.
Sabit billed numerous insurance carriers after he was licensed to practice medicine in Michigan in March 2011.
In all, he billed almost $33 million and was paid more than $1.8 million, according to a criminal complaint.
According to the complaint, Sabit performed surgery on almost everyone who walked through his office, an unnamed employee told an FBI agent.
Sabit previously was licensed in California and was the subject of more than two dozen medical malpractice lawsuits between 2009-10. In July, he agreed to surrender his medical license.
Sabit is originally from Afghanistan and is accused of illegally obtaining U.S. citizenship in 2013. Sabit allegedly failed to disclose that he knowingly committed health care fraud, prosecutors said.
The government labeled Sabit a flight risk, noting that he was questioned in September in Atlanta while trying to fly to Dubai. Sabit told a customs officer that he owned a company involved in mining in Afghanistan.
In his luggage, officers found a ruby and a 3.6-carat emerald, according to the complaint.