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1-800-GET-THIN owner’s bid for new trial in $250 million fraud case looks doomed

The judge tentatively denied Julian Omidi's multiple motions to set aside the jury verdict and dismiss the indictment.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The man who controlled the 1-800-GET-THIN network of companies that promoted and performed lap-band surgeries faces steep odds in his bid for a new trial after being convicted of defrauding insurers out of more than $250 million.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee on Friday tentatively rejected Julian Omidi's multiple requests to throw out his conviction because, as he argued, the government's star witness lied about a threat to his life made shortly before he began cooperating with the investigation. The judge was also not persuaded that prosecutors withheld potentially exculpatory evidence or that they improperly changed the nature of their case against Omidi toward the end of the three-month trial.

Gee took the motions by Omidi and Surgery Center Management, one of the companies affiliated with the 1-800-GET-THIN network that was also convicted at trial, under submission without issuing a final ruling at the hearing.

This past December, a jury found Omidi guilty of 28 counts of mail fraud, as well as additional counts of wire fraud, identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering and making false statement related health matters.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in LA had argued at trial that Omidi, a physician whose license was revoked in 2009, was a micromanager who instructed others to falsify sleep studies to make it appear patients suffered from severe sleep apnea, which would justify their need for lap-band surgery. Omidi also ordered patients’ weight and height to be altered, according to the prosecution, so that it would appear that their body mass index was above a critical threshold.

Omidi's defense tried to shift the blame to Charles Klasky, the manager of 1-800-GET-THIN's sleep-study program who had struck a plea deal with the Justice Department and was the key government witness. In their posttrial bid to throw out the jury verdict and even the underlying indictment, Omidi's new attorneys argued the prosecution relied on Klasky's purportedly false claim that a lawyer affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN threatened him on the morning he was to meet with the U.S. attorneys that his life would be over if he made a deal with the government.

"The government knew from the outset that Mr. Klasky was an inveterate liar," Kevin Lally, one of Omidi's attorneys said at Friday's hearing. "They should have investigated further when they knew what he had told them was demonstratively false."

According to Lally, Klasky's claim that he got a threatening call from Brian Oxman, 1-800-GET-THIN's litigation counsel, on the morning of his interview with the FBI was false because Klasky's phone records showed no call from Oxman that morning. Moreover, Lally said the government concocted a "fantastic" story how the FBI notes from Klasky's interview that day, when he related the threatening call, were incorrect to create ambiguity whether the threats were made the previous day when Klasky's phone record show he spoke with Oxman.

The judge appeared unimpressed by the lawyer's argument.

"If this was so important to the defense, why didn't they address it on cross-examination," Gee asked him.

According to the judge, it would have been very simple for Omidi's attorneys to ask Oxman whether any of the two numbers that made calls to Klasky that morning were his and, if they weren't, use this to cross-examine Klasky about his testimony regarding the threatening call when he was on the stand.

Lally responded that Omidi's trial attorneys had no idea this testimony would be coming up.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Williams told the judge that Omidi's defense had been well prepared for Klasky's trial testimony and that his former lawyers made a tactical decision not to cross-examine the witness about the threat to avoid giving the prosecution an opportunity to explore it even further.

"The sum and substance of what Mr. Klasky has said has been remarkably consistent," William said. "The government has had no reason to believe it was false."

Lally and Williams declined to comment on the judge's tentative decision after the hearing.

Categories:Criminal, Health, Trials

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