CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The U.S. attorney's office says a Cincinnati area spine surgeon accused of performing unnecessary surgeries has fled the country.
Now a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Dr. Atiq Durrani, but capturing the doctor may prove to be difficult.
Dr. Atiq Durrani was arrested back in July on federal health care fraud and other charges and ordered to surrender his passport. Now, the U.S. attorney's office says Durrani has left the country possibly fleeing to Pakistan and if that's the case authorities may have a tough time bringing him to justice.
Criminal Defense attorney Mark Krumbein says "I think it will be really difficult to find him and get him back and get cooperation, I mean, there's a fair amount of animosity between the United States and Pakistan."
The U.S. does have an extradition treaty with Pakistan, but getting Pakistani officials to comply in recent years has been difficult. Durrani may be counting on that difficulty, but Krumbein says Durrani is also adding to his troubles. "He's violated the situation with his bond so there could be some criminal sanctions for that right off the bat.
In August Durrani asked to permission to leave the U.S. to visit his ailing father in Pakistan, but was denied. Durrani has apparently gone anyway and Krumbein says it's not that difficult even without a passport. "It's not impossible. It's a lot harder to get into the United States. It's really not that hard to leave. Some people on federal cases I've found out they've had 10, 20 passports. They, you know, can forge them, they've had different passports under different names for awhile. I'm not saying he's done that, but it certainly is possible for anybody."
Despite allegations of fraudulently billing Medicare out of millions, Dr. Durrani still has a number of supporters. Fox19 spoke to some of them in August.
EIizabeth Kerns of Latonia says "I cannot believe anyone would charge him with anything like this."
Kerns has had two surgeries performed by Dr. Durrani and she's looking forward to having a third procedure.
That confidence is also expressed by 18 year-old Kelcie Thomson who went in for treatment of a broken ankle, but she says Durrani found a tumor eating away at the bone in her right arm. "He told us that if I hadn't broken my ankle and I had not gone to see him my arm could have shattered like glass."
Kelcie says without Durrani she wouldn't have an arm today so she finds the allegations against him hard to believe. "I was shocked because the Durrani I know he was a great man, he was very kind, very generous."
Durrani's attorney, Glen Whitaker has not responded to our request for comment and as far as the patients suing Dr. Durrani they're under a gag order not to talk to the press.