SACRAMENTO, CA -- The Department of Justice announced Monday that 11 people have been charged for allegedly running an operation that involved filing false claims to Medicare for treating patients who were not sick, or in some cases, dead.
According to U.S Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, the indictments handed up on Thursday, May 20 stem from Medicare reimbursement claims submitted from doctors who worked at three clinics in Sacramento, Carmichael and Richmond.
From February 2006 to August 2008, more than $5 million in fraudulent claims were submitted to Medicare, according to the investigation. The original indictment handed up last year named two doctors who profited from the alleged fraud operation.
Dr. Vardges Egiazarian, the alleged ring leader, and Dr. Derrick Johnson both pleaded guilty last year and told authorities how they made millions of dollars from filing false Medicare claims.
According to the U.S. Attorney, Egiazarian, 60, of Panorama City, admitted claims were submitted to Medicare for patients who were never treated at any of the three clinics, or for procedures that were either unnecessary or never performed.
"Egiazarian admitted the clinic's patients were recruited and transported to the clinic by individuals who were paid according to the number of patients they brought to the facility," said Wagner.
Wagner said the patients received $100 each time they were brought to the clinic as payment for their time and the use of their Medicare eligibility.
"Some of the patients for whom billings were submitted at the Richmond clinic were actually deceased on the date that they allegedly received services," said Wagner.
Egiazarian was sentenced in November 2009 to six-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution to Medicare.
Johnson pleaded guilty last September to conspiracy charges as well. Wagner said Johnson admitted that hundreds of Medicare claims were submitted on his behalf for treating patients at the Richmond clinic. According to Wagner, Johnson never set foot inside the facility nor had any contact with any patients. He is still awaiting sentencing.
Last Thursday, the grand jury extended the indictment to five more doctors and six other people and charged them with conspiracy to commit health care fraud at the Sacramento and Carmichael clinics.
Like the operation at the Richmond facility, patients were paid to let doctors perform basic examinations. However, the Medicare claims allegedly requested reimbursement for more elaborate care such as ultrasounds, physical therapy and sleep studies.
Wagner said the investigation revealed, "in some instances, clinic employees performed procedures such as ultrasounds or blood draws on themselves or each other, and then placed the results in files relating to Medicare-eligible beneficiaries," said Wagner.
The doctors and their accomplices allegedly split up the money from the Medicare reimbursements, according to Wagner. The people named in the indictment are Dr. Alexander Popov, 44, of Los Angeles; Dr. Ramanathan Prakash, 63, of Northridge; Dr. Emilio Cruz III, 57, of Los Angeles; Dr. Lana Le Chabrier, 62, of Santa Barbara; Dr. Sol Teitelbaum, 82, of Los Angeles; Migran Petrosyan, 39, of Burbank; Khachatur Arutunyan, 51, of Tujunga; Shushanik Martirosyan, 43, of Glendale; Zoya Belov, 35, of Carmichael; Nazaret Salmanyan, 27, of Citrus Heights and Liw Jiaw Saechao, 44, of Sacramento.
Wagner said if the defendants are found guilty, they could receive the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.