(NEW YORK) — Few doctors have made more money in the weight-loss business than Beverly Hills brothers, Julian and Michael Omidi.
The brothers, who once were featured in the cable program Dr. 90210, are the men behind a heavily advertised Southern California business called 1-800-GetThin that has 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 that will also be featured on World News with Diane Sawyer has found that in the past three years, at least five patients have died after Lap-Band surgery at the brothers’ California clinics.
John Faitro says his wife Laura died after doctors lacerated her liver during the procedure, but sent her home without revealing the mistake.
The clinic’s lawyers say Laura Faitro had other health issues and the lacerated liver was not the cause of her death.
But the doctor who operated on Laura Faitro testified that one of the Omidi brothers, Julian, told him they made too much money to worry about the death or the cost of a lawsuit.
“Julian Omidi’s response to me was, ‘Don’t worry, we make $21 million a month, one million is okay,'” said Dr. Ihsan Shamaan during a deposition in a lawsuit filed by John Faitro.
The Omidis deny the doctor’s allegations and remain in business despite the new investigations and lawsuits against them.
The Omidis, who declined to be interviewed by ABC News, say there are greater risks with obese patients and that their clinics are professionally accredited and meet the highest standards.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
David Goldman, CNN
Cristina Alesci Seth Fiegerman and Charles Riley, CNN