On Monday, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Michigan sentenced Dr. Aria Sabat to nearly 20 years in prison for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid and harming his patients. Dr. Sabat pleaded guilty in May 2015 to various counts of fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit fraud leading to serious bodily injury, and one count of illegally distributing a controlled substance. In doing so, Sabat admitted to performing unnecessary and even fake operations on patients.
Prosecutors described some of Sabat’s surgeries as “plain butchery.” Before sentencing Sabat, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman heard emotional stories from 14 former patients, several of whom wore braces or supported themselves with canes. One patient provided testimony from her wheelchair.
Sabat’s egregious practices affected patients in two states over the course of at least five years. Before moving to Michigan in 2011, Sabat practiced at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California. At that time, Sabat was invested in Apex Medical Technologies, a physician-owned distributorship (POD) of various pieces of spinal instrumentation. To increase his and POD’s profits, Sabat performed a slew of unnecessary spinal surgeries, in addition to legitimate ones in which he overloaded patients with Apex hardware.
Following the temporary suspension of his privileges by Community Memorial Hospital, Sabat moved to Michigan. Although Sabat stopped using Apex’s spinal instrumentation, he crafted a new profit-making scheme: persuading patients to undergo spinal fusion surgery with metal instrumentation that he never installed. Instead of performing the promised surgeries, Sabit used bone dowels and never achieved spinal fusion.
According to prosecutors, “the Eastern District of Michigan has a particular problem with corrupt physicians willing to sell their licenses and judgment in pursuit of personal gain, sometimes at the expense of their patients.” Hopefully, Sabat’s lengthy sentence will send a strong message to criminally-inclined doctors in Michigan and beyond.
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