Seven months after Lahavah Wallace’s weight loss operation, a New York bariatric surgery practice sued her, accusing her of “intentionally” failing to pay nearly $18,000 of her bill.
Long Island Minimally Invasive Surgery, which does business as the New York Bariatric Group, went on to accuse Wallace of “embezzlement,” alleging she kept insurance payments that should have been turned over to the practice.
Wallace denies the allegations, which the bariatric practice has leveled against patients in hundreds of debt-collection lawsuits filed over the past four years, court records in New York state show.
In about 60 cases, the lawsuits demanded $100,000 or more from patients. Some patients were found liable for tens of thousands of dollars in interest charges or wound up shackled with debt that could take a decade or more to shake. Others are facing the likely prospect of six-figure financial penalties, court records show.
Backed by a major private equity firm, the bariatric practice spends millions each year on advertisements featuring patients who have dropped 100 pounds or more after bariatric procedures, sometimes having had a portion of their stomachs removed. The ads have run on TV, online, and on New York City subway posters.
The online ads, often showcasing the slogan “Stop obesity for life,” appealed to Wallace, who lives in Brooklyn and works as a legal assistant for the state of New York. She said she turned over checks from her insurer to the bariatric group and …
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