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Lap-band promoters' troubled history

March 04, 2010|Michael Hiltzik

The association's executive director, Jeff Pearcy, told me that it had suspended Almont's credentials a few weeks earlier, after receiving a serious complaint that he wouldn't specify.

During an unannounced visit April 4, its inspectors discovered that surgery was being performed on the premises despite the suspension. Pearcy said his organization promptly informed federal Medicare authorities and the state medical board of its action. Silverman blames those violations on unidentified Almont managers who he said were placed in charge by the Omidis.

He said Almont went out of business soon after the revocation of its certification and accreditation.

The clinic's quarters, he maintains, were then taken over by Beverly Hills Surgery Center. Under that name the facility received accreditation as an ambulatory care center in January from a different medical accreditation agency, the Joint Commission.

Silverman maintains that Beverly Hills Surgery Center is "a completely separate entity" from Almont. But he also acknowledged that Julian and Michael Omidi helped launch Almont, and records show both have connections to Beverly Hills Surgery Center.

The Department of Public Health still lists Michael Omidi as 100% owner of the surgery center at Suite 106 at 9001 Wilshire Blvd. and Almont as its corporate name, department spokesman Ralph Montano said Wednesday.

He said the information was filed with the agency in May 2009 and that the center's owners have not updated the filing since.

Julian Omidi, who is identified in Los Angeles County records as president of Almont, is also listed as president of TopSurgeons Inc., which, as mentioned earlier, also listsits address in state and county business filings as 9001 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 106.

Beverly Hills Surgery Center was registered with the county by Thomas C. Cloud on Oct. 15, 2009, also at 9001 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 106.

Cloud is a business associate of Julian Omidi's, according to legal papers Cloud filed in several lawsuits in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking payments from patients who allegedly did not pay their bills.

Cloud is a former doctor whose license was revoked by the medical board -- for the second time -- in 2001, based on a string of felony convictions, including a 1993 conviction for Medi-Cal fraud that garnered him a sentence of 16 months in state prison.

Silverman says Cloud isn't an employee of TopSurgeons, just "an independent contractor."

Through Silverman, the Omidis refused my request for interviews.

Silverman told me this week that TopSurgeons Inc. no longer conducts any business. There's a TopSurgeons LLC, he says, but it doesn't operate at 9001 Wilshire Blvd.

As of Wednesday, however, the California secretary of state's website listed that address as the entity's official address, and the TopSurgeons website listed the location as one of the offices to which it refers patients.

Silverman refused to identify the ownership and management of TopSurgeons LLC but said it's different from TopSurgeons Inc.

Should we take that on faith? I'll just note that when TopSurgeons LLC registered its business name with the county last April it listed the same Wilshire Boulevard surgical suite as its address and named as its registration agent Cindy Omidi, which is the name of Julian and Michael Omidi's mother.

When TopSurgeons LLC filed its business registration with the California secretary of state in 2008, its agent was Thomas Cloud and its address of record was 9001 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 106.

Silverman said there was no "wrongdoing, illegal conduct, or even inappropriate conduct" involved here.

But the public record shows that one or both Omidi brothers have been doing business out of the same location under various corporate names since at least 2005 -- and it's a location that has drawn some not entirely positive attention from health and medical inspectors.

If I were even remotely inclined to answer one of those "GET THIN" ads, I'd like to know if my regulators were still keeping their eyes on the place.

Michael Hiltzik's column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Reach him at michael.hiltzik@latimes.com, read previous columns at www.latimes.com/hiltzik, and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.

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