Lisa Bernard-Kuhn reports:
The Mason spine surgeon accused of fraudulently billing Medicare millions of dollars for unnecessary surgeries has hired a new lawyer to defend him.
Dr. Atiq Durrani has tapped Glenn Whitaker of downtown-based Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP to replace attorney Bruce Whitman. Whitaker represented Durrani during a Monday afternoon arraignment, in which the surgeon entered a not guilty plea to the federal charges against him.
“Dr. Durrani has had a long relationship with our law firm,” Whitaker said Monday, adding that he expects a trial date to be set before “very soon.”
Earlier this month, a federal grand jury issued a 10-count indictment against Durrani, charging him with five counts of health care fraud and five counts of making false statements in health care matters.
The indictment alleges that Durrani lied to patients, colleagues and hospitals in order to convince them that surgery was needed. Durrani even allegedly asserted “there was a risk of paralysis or the head would fall off if the patient was in a car accident because there was almost nothing attaching the head to the patient’s body,” according to the indictment.
Many patients treated “were left in a worse position due to the unnecessary surgeries” the indictment further states.
Durrani, who owns a private practice called the Center for Advanced Spine Technologies with offices in Evendale and Florence, previously told the Enquirer he would fight criminal and civil allegations against him.
Federal agents arrested Durrani last month at his Reading Road office on a complaint, which led to the indictment. In addition to the criminal charges, Durrani faces mounting civil lawsuits filed on behalf of former patients.
Health care fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The crime of making false statements in health care matters is punishable by up to five years in prison.