Detroit Neurosurgeon Aria Sabit Arrested for alleged insurance fraud
A Detroit-area neurosurgeon was arrested Monday for allegedly defrauding federal and private health-insurance programs by billing for spine surgeries that he either didn’t perform or that were medically unnecessary, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court.
The surgeon, Aria Sabit, was sued by the Justice Department in civil court in September over similar allegations. Dr. Sabit was the subject of a 2013 Page One article in The Wall Street Journal revealing that he profited from the implants he used in dozens of surgeries at a California hospital, some with tragic outcomes.
Dr. Sabit’s lawyer, Mark Kriger, said his client will enter a not guilty plea. No plea has been entered yet.
Dr. Sabit, who relocated from California to Michigan in early 2011, allegedly misled four different Michigan patients into thinking that he fused their spinal vertebrae when he actually performed no such procedure, according to the new criminal complaint.
Between the beginning of 2011 and June 2014, Dr. Sabit billed Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan a total of $32.8 million, the complaint alleges. Of the $1.8 million he collected from them, $1.2 million was paid out by Medicare and Medicaid.
Dr. Sabit was ordered held without bond until a Dec. 1 hearing and could face 10 or more years in prison if convicted.
Dr. Sabit was born in Afghanistan and obtained U.S. citizenship last year. The government’s complaint alleges that he was “statutorily ineligible for naturalization” at the time because he knowingly committed health-care fraud and failed to disclose it.
Before moving to Michigan, Dr. Sabit operated at a hospital in Ventura, Calif., where he used spinal implants supplied by a company he had an ownership stake in. One California Medicare patient he operated on died from postoperative complications, according to the civil complaint the Justice Department filed in September. Dr. Sabit surrendered his California medical license last summer under a settlement with the state’s medical board.
Federal prosecutors asked that Dr. Sabit be held in jail pending trial, citing an attempt he made in September to fly to Dubai via Atlanta. While interviewing Dr. Sabit at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport, customs officers found a plastic bag in his luggage containing a ruby and a 3.6-carat emerald, according to the complaint. Dr. Sabit told the agents that he was involved in the mining business in Afghanistan.