WASHINGTON— A Los Angeles-area man pleaded guilty today to establishing fraudulent medical clinics and using stolen identities of physicians to defraud Medicare of up to $13.6 million, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.
Eduard Aslanyan, 37, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in the Central District of California. Aslanyan admitted that between March 2007 and September 2008, he established a series of fraudulent medical clinics in and around Los Angeles to defraud Medicare. Carolyn Vasquez, who pleaded guilty previously to conspiring with Aslanyan to defraud Medicare, recruited physicians to serve as the medical directors of Aslanyan’s fraudulent medical clinics, and helped them negotiate management agreements with Multiple Trading Inc., a shell company Aslanyan owned, which permitted Multiple Trading to manage the day-to-day operations of the clinics. In return for Multiple Trading’s management services, the physicians agreed to pay Multiple Trading 75 percent of all the revenue the physicians received from Medicare for the services that the clinics billed to Medicare. These services were not performed by the physicians, who were rarely at Aslanyan’s fraudulent medical clinics, but by physician assistants who were hired by Aslanyan and Vasquez and were complicit in the fraud scheme at the clinics.
According to court documents, Aslanyan hired patient recruiters to find Medicare beneficiaries who were willing to provide their Medicare billing information in exchange for expensive, high-end power wheelchairs and other medical equipment that the patient recruiters told the beneficiaries they could receive for free. Often, the Medicare beneficiaries who were solicited by the patient recruiters did not have a legitimate medical need for the power wheelchairs and equipment. The patient recruiters then provided the beneficiaries’ Medicare billing information to Aslanyan or brought the beneficiaries to Aslanyan’s fraudulent medical clinics. In exchange for recruiting the Medicare beneficiaries, Aslanyan paid the patient recruiters cash kickbacks.
In court documents, Aslanyan admitted that he and Vasquez instructed and paid the physician assistants who worked at his fraudulent medical clinics to prescribe medically-unnecessary power wheelchairs and medical equipment, and order medically-unnecessary diagnostic tests for the Medicare beneficiaries. Aslanyan also admitted that physician assistants who prescribed the wheelchairs, equipment and diagnostic tests did so using the stolen identities of physicians who either did not supervise the physician assistants or work at Aslanyan’s fraudulent medical clinics. In one instance, Aslanyan admitted that he and his co-conspirators went so far as to print prescription pads and medical documents with the name of a physician who applied for, but did not accept, a job at one of Aslanyan’s fraudulent medical clinics. Two physician assistants at Aslanyan’s clinics then used the prescription pads and medical documents to prescribe medically-unnecessary power wheelchairs and medical equipment, and to order medically-unnecessary diagnostic tests without the physician’s knowledge or consent.
Aslanyan admitted that one way he profited from the fraud scheme at his clinics was by allowing fraudulent diagnostic testing facilities to use the Medicare billing information he purchased from the patient recruiters to submit false claims to Medicare for the fraudulent diagnostic tests which physician assistants ordered at the clinics. In exchange, the fraudulent diagnostic testing facilities paid Aslanyan cash kickbacks which they disguised as rent payments to Aslanyan.
In addition, Aslanyan profited from the fraud scheme by selling the fraudulent power wheelchair and medical equipment prescriptions and documents generated at his clinics to the owners and operators of fraudulent durable medical equipment (DME) supply companies, which used the prescriptions and documents to submit false claims to Medicare. Aslanyan also used the fraudulent prescriptions and documents to submit false claims to Medicare through his own fraudulent DME supply companies, Vila Medical Supply Inc. and Blanc Medical Supplies. The straw owner of Blanc Medical Supplies, Gabriel Djanunts, pleaded guilty previously to Medicare fraud. Aslanyan admitted that as a result of his conduct, he and his co-conspirators defrauded Medicare of up to $13.6 million.
At sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 17, 2011, Aslanyan faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Currently, Aslanyan is serving a three-year state sentence for assault. Vasquez’s sentencing is scheduled for July 11, 2011.
The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. for the Central District of California; Tony Sidley, Assistant Chief of the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse; Glenn R. Ferry, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Los Angeles Region of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); and Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Former Special Trial Attorney Joseph Hudzik participated in the prosecution. The case is being investigated by the FBI.
The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.
Since their inception in March 2007, strike force operations in nine districts have charged 1,000 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.3 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about HEAT, go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov .