Browne George Ross O’Brien Annaguey & Ellis LLP (BGR) secured a major victory last week in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, successfully clearing Dr. Mirali Zarrabi on all 33 felony counts regarding a $355 million insurance fraud scheme on the 1-800-GET-THIN Lap-Band surgery business.
Dr. Zarrabi, a pulmonologist, was the sole defendant acquitted of all charges in what appears to be the lengthiest federal trial conducted nationwide during the pandemic. BGR partner Thomas P. O’Brien tried the case alongside partners Ivy A. Wang and Jennie Wang VonCannon and associates Luke Fiedler, Matthew O. Kussman, and Nour Hamida.
“The complexity of the matter and length of the trial were significant challenges, but our client, Dr. Zarrabi, is extremely pleased with the outcome and so are we,” said O’Brien, lead counsel and former U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. “It’s not often a defendant with so many charges is acquitted on all of them, but the jury did its job and reviewed the evidence properly.”
Federal prosecutors argued at trial that the 1-800-GET-THIN network had fraudulently submitted roughly $355 million in insurance claims for coverage of Lap-Band surgeries, a type of weight loss surgery. According to prosecutors, GET THIN scheduled patients for medically unnecessary sleep studies and then falsified the results to show that the patients had obstructive sleep apnea, often a trigger for insurance coverage of Lap-Band surgery. Dr. Zarrabi, an independent contractor of GET THIN, was accused of failing to review the falsified sleep study results, but the BGR team successfully demonstrated to the jury that the government’s chief cooperating witness, Charles Klasky, falsified the results after Dr. Zarrabi had performed his sleep study reviews.
The trial spanned close to three months, which was one of the longest federal criminal cases in district history.
O’Brien previously led the prosecutor’s office from 2007 to 2009, after being appointed by President George W. Bush. O’Brien tried the case with Wang and VonCannon, his former Assistant U.S. Attorneys. Wang, a veteran of fraud trials and recipient of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys Director’s Award, left the U.S. Attorney’s office to join BGR in 2018. VonCannon, former Deputy Chief of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section, left the U.S. Attorney’s office to join BGR in 2019.
Media coverage of the firm’s success in the matter can be found in Law360, the Daily Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.