A federal appeals court affirmed a nearly 20-year prison sentence for a doctor who performed unnecessary spinal surgeries in California and Michigan, procedures that were described by prosecutors as “plain butchery.”
Aria Sabit acknowledged the awful care nearly three years ago in federal court in Detroit, but he appealed the 235-month sentence as excessive. The appeals court, however, let it stand Monday in a 3-0 opinion.
“Sabit, unlike most doctors who commit health care fraud, tricked dozens of vulnerable and defenseless patients into getting sham surgeries,” the court said. “During these surgeries, Sabit would cut people open and either insert unnecessary medical devices or insert nothing, despite telling the patient and insurer to the contrary.
“Many victims testified during sentencing about the pain — sometimes permanent — that they endure because of what Sabit did,” the court said.
Sabit, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud, had a financial stake in Apex Medical Technologies LLC and made money when he used its spinal devices. He worked at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, until moving to suburban Detroit in 2011.
His patients included Rick Porterfield, an executive at Community Memorial, who was persuaded to have spinal fusion surgery.
“I have to have pedicures because I can’t reach my feet,” Porterfield told U.S. District Judge Paul Borman in 2017.
Sabit, 45, must pay $1.9 million in restitution to the government, insurers and patients.