Dr. Aria Sabit: Michigan Surgeon Sentenced After Knowingly Performing Unnecessary Surgeries, Crippling Some Patients

A Michigan neurosurgeon has been sentenced to prison after he pleaded guilty for his role in $2.8 million healthcare fraud scheme. Dr. Aria Sabit performed unnecessary and incomplete spinal surgeries and caused serious bodily harm to some of his patients from these surgeries. Federal Judge Paul Borman heard the emotional stories from 14 of Dr. Sabit’s former patients before ordering that the surgeon serves over 19 years in prison for his crimes.

“Sabit further admitted that, in some instances, he operated on patients and dictated in his operative reports – which he knew would later be used to support fraudulent insurance claims – that he had performed spinal fusion with instrumentation, when he had not,” the Department of Justice stated.

Sabit had worked at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California before he moved to Michigan in 2011. Sabit admitted harming patients and cheating insurers. Rick Porterfield was an executive at Community Memorial Hospital where Dr. Sabit was on staff, according to The Detroit News. Sabit performed surgery on Porterfield. who said that since that surgery, every move he makes is painful.

“Every move I make hurts.”

Federal prosecutors called Sabit’s spinal surgeries “butchery” and said that Sabit accepted kickbacks from implant manufacturers.

Sabit admitted that he had taken kickbacks while in California, where he had surrendered his medical license. In 2011, he opened the Michigan Brain and Spine Physicians Group with offices in Southfield, Clinton Township, and Dearborn. The FBI reported the details of the arrest in 2014.

“The complaint alleges Sabit purportedly performed lumbar spinal fusion surgeries, which normally entails placing a medical device in a patient’s spinal column. In fact, Dr. Sabit would place no medical device in the patient’s spinal column, while billing the patient’s insurer, leading the patient to believe that the surgery had been performed correctly. When their pain continued, patients sought second opinions and were told that no medical devices had been implanted.”

Patch reported that Sabit also illegally obtained U.S. citizenship in 2013 when he failed to disclose the fraud allegations against him in California. CBS reported that the case, complete with the accusations of illegal citizenship, is reminiscent of the case of Dr. Farid Fata, the oncologist who gave unneeded cancer treatment to patients in Michigan. Sabit came to the states from Afghanistan, where is father was Attorney General, and his uncle was Speaker of the House, Click on Detroit reported, whereas Fata became a naturalized citizen after coming to the U.S. from Lebanon. Court documents about Fata alleged a charge of “Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization.” Fata was sentenced to 45 years while Sabit was sentenced to less than half of that. Both doctors were arrested while working in Michigan.

Judge Borman said Dr. Sabit committed “cruel and unusual punishment” and “horrific criminal acts” as a surgeon. For example, Lillian Kaulback died at age 68 from complications from a surgery performed by Sabit, Kevin Reynolds, Kaulback’s son, said. Others were crippled.

“Sabit lied to his patients and convinced them to undergo invasive fusion surgery with instrumentation, knowing he would not perform a fusion or place instrumentation in the spinal column,” the feds said in a court filing, according to NZ Herald.

“The violation of a patient’s trust for selfish gain through the fraudulent abuse of our nation’s health care system is a very serious crime,” Paul Abbate, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office at the time of Sabit’s arrest, said. “The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, remains committed to fighting health care fraud and keeping our citizens safe.”

The investigations into Dr. Aria Sabit’s criminal activities had been conducted jointly by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and DHS-ICE. Aria Sabit also is the defendant in two pending civil False Claims Act cases in the Central District of California from his career as a surgeon in that state.

[Featured Image by Edward Olive/Shutterstock]