June 5, 2014 -- Federal agents raided the Beverly Hills office of the company tied to the 1-800-Get-Thin advertising campaign and separately arrested one person related to the men behind the campaign, which was the subject of an ABC News “20/20” investigation in 2012.
The Beverly Hills office was one of “multiple locations” federal officers searched in Los Angeles Wednesday connected to Michael and Julian Omidi, a law enforcement official told ABC News.
Separately, the Department of Justice arrested Cindy Omidi, the Omidis’ mother, for allegedly violating the Bank Secrecy Act by attempting to hide transactions from the government. An indictment detailing her alleged criminal actions, which prosecutors say took place from July 2008 to December 2009, was filed last year and does not mention 1-800-Get-Thin or her sons.
The Omidi brothers, who once were featured in the cable program "Dr. 90210," are the men behind the heavily-advertised Southern California business called 1-800-Get-Thin and affiliated surgery clinics that have made millions of dollars offering an outpatient procedure that constricts the stomach with what's called a "Lap-Band."
Done right, the Lap-Band procedure is a safe technique. But a "20/20" investigation in 2012 found that over the previous three years, five patients had died after Lap-Band surgery at the brothers' California clinics. The Omidi brothers did not perform the surgeries themselves.
Featured in the 2012 report was John Faitro, who told ABC News that his wife Laura died after doctors at one of the Omidis’ clinics lacerated her liver during the procedure but sent her home without revealing the mistake.
The doctor who operated on Laura Faitro, Dr. Ihsan Shamaan, said that one of the Omidi brothers, Julian, told him that the brothers made too much money to worry about the death or the cost of a lawsuit. During a deposition, Shamaan testified that Julian Omidi told him that if he had killed Laura, “that means there would be a lawsuit.”
“Julian Omidi’s response to me was, ‘Don’t worry, we make $21 million a month. One million is okay,” Shamaan said then.
At the time, the Omidis claimed the doctor was lying and lawyers for the clinic said Laura Faitro had other health issues. The lacerated liver, they said, was not the cause of her death.
A series of articles and columns in The Los Angeles Times first revealed the patient deaths and, despite being hit by a string of lawsuits from the Omidis, the paper’s reporters continued to raise questions about the marketing pitch to overweight Californians. The Times also first reported Wednesday’s raids.
"This place seems to be a magnet for bad outcomes," Alex Robertson, an attorney for families who had taken legal action against the Omidis, said in 2012. "Ultimately, justice may be for these families that if laws have been broken, people responsible go to jail, that they get shut down, that doctors lose their license. This can't continue."
At the time of the 2012 “20/20” report, the Omidi brothers said there were greater risks with obese patients and that their clinics are professionally accredited and meet the highest standards. They declined repeated requests from “20/20” for interviews.
An attorney for the Omidis did not immediately respond to a request to comment for this report.