CINCINNATI -- Dr. Atiq Durrani, the Mason spine surgeon facing a 36-count federal fraud indictment and more than 160 civil suits, has fled the country, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Friday.
The U.S. Attorney’s office put out a warrant for his arrest.
A Pakistani citizen, Durrani was required to turn over his passport when he was indicted, and the U.S. Attorney didn't say how Durrani managed to slip out of the country. A judge had ordered him not to travel beyond Ohio and Kentucky.
Durrani had asked for permission to go to Pakistan, saying his father was ill, but a judge refused.
The Ohio and Kentucky medical boards recently suspended Durrani's license based on the indictment.
Durrani's civil attorney, Michael Lyon of Cincinnati, told WCPO Friday he was aware that an arrest warrant had been issued for Durrani and said he couldn't comment further because of attorney-client privilege.
The government accuses Durrani of billing public and private insurers millions of dollars for unnecessary surgeries beginning in 2008. The indictment specifically charges Durrani in 10 cases of making false diagnoses and performing or attempting unnecessary surgeries.
RELATED: Read the indictment.
Durrani also faces more than 160 lawsuits by patients who claim he performed unnecessary surgeries on them. Some patients claimed the surgery made their conditions worse.
The first of those cases, filed by attorney Eric Deters, is scheduled for trial Jan. 6.
Deters said he was unable to comment on the U.S. Attorney's announcement about Durrani. In a text to WCPO Friday, Deters typed: "Can't. Gag Order."
Durrani's criminal trial had been scheduled to begin Jan. 13, but he requested a continuance last month and the trial was reset for Aug. 18.
Durrani professed his innocence in an exclusive interview with WCPO's Tom McKee last August.
WATCH Durrani's entire interview here.
The federal charges carry a potential prison sentence of up to 125 years. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of any proceeds Durrani received as a result of his alleged scheme.
Durrani owns a private practice called the Centers for Advanced Spine Technologies (CAST) with offices in Mason and Florence and most recently performed surgeries at JourneyLite in Evendale, where he is part owner.
Between 2007 and 2013, Durrani performed surgery at West Chester Hospital UC Health, Children's Hospital, Good Samaritan, Christ and Deaconess, but he no longer has privileges at any of those hospitals, the indictment says.
The government alleges that:
> Durrani’s unnecessary surgeries resulted in serious bodily injury to some patients.
> Durrani would falsely say the patient was at risk of grave injuries without the surgery.
> Durrani often did not read or ignored X-rays that he ordered.
> Durrani would order a pain injection for a level of the spine that was inconsistent with the pain stated by the patient or the imaging.
> Durrani lied to colleagues and hospitals in order to further his scheme.
The indictment says Durrani made false statements to hospitals as part of his application. He concealed peer review or disciplinary activity by other hospitals and malpractice actions that had been filed against him, it says.
It also says Durrani falsely told a patient that he could not operate on her at West Chester because her insurance could not be accepted there in order to conceal the fact his privileges were suspended.
Deters has sued Children's Hospital on behalf of more than 120 patients, claiming the hospital covered up Durrani’s “incompetence and negligence,” failed to report that he had been fired or resigned in lieu of firing, and paid for settling a lawsuit against him.
Deters’ suit says his clients had surgery from Durrani at West Chester or Journey Lite after Durrani had left Children’s in 2008. It alleges that Children’s withheld “truthful and accurate information” about Durrani and the plaintiffs never would have accepted Durrani’s treatment if they had known his history.
The government also alleges that:
> Durrani scheduled a patient for surgery on Sept. 22, 2010 but allowed another surgeon, who was not approved as a Medicare provider, to do it. Durrani was present only briefly. But the surgery was billed to Medicare and listed Durrani as the primary surgeon.
> Durrani pre-signed blank prescription pads and instructed others to write Oxycodone orders for 12 patients while he was out of the country in 2012 and 2013.
> After leaving a broken guidewire in a patient in 2009, Durrani failed to tell the patient during repeated office visits paid by a healthcare program. When the patient eventually confronted Durrani, the doctor denied leaving the guidewire in the patient. Durrani then recommended another surgery, paid by the healthcare program, and removed the guidewire without telling the patient.
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