WASHINGTON – A Los Angeles-area man was sentenced yesterday to 77 months in prison for organizing and leading a medical clinic fraud scheme that used the stolen identities of physicians to submit more than $18.9 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.
Eduard Aslanyan, 38, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in the Central District of California. In addition to his prison term, Aslanyan was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $10.8 million in restitution.
Aslanyan pleaded guilty in April 2011. He 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 previously pleaded guilty to conspiring with Aslanyan to defraud Medicare, recruited physicians to serve as the medical directors of Aslanyan’s fraudulent medical clinics. The physicians did not perform services at the clinics and were rarely present at the clinics. Physician assistants 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 the recruiters with their Medicare billing information in exchange for expensive, high-end power wheelchairs and other medical equipment which the patient recruiters told the beneficiaries they could receive for free. Often, the Medicare beneficiaries 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 clinics. Aslanyan paid the patient recruiters cash kickbacks in exchange for recruiting the Medicare beneficiaries.
In court documents, Aslanyan admitted that he and Vasquez instructed and paid physician assistants who worked at his clinics to prescribe medically unnecessary power wheelchairs, medical equipment and diagnostic tests for the Medicare beneficiaries. The physician assistants used stolen identities of physicians who did not supervise them or work at the clinics.
According to court documents, Aslanyan profited from the scheme at his fraudulent medical clinics in several ways. Aslanyan admitted that he allowed fraudulent diagnostic testing facilities to use the Medicare billing information he purchased from patient recruiters to submit false claims to Medicare for tests ordered at the clinics. In exchange, the fraudulent diagnostic testing facilities paid Aslanyan cash kickbacks that were disguised as rent payments to Aslanyan.
Aslanyan also profited from the scheme by selling fraudulent 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.
According to court documents, as a result of Aslanyan’s conduct, he and his co-conspirators submitted approximately $18.9 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
Currently, Aslanyan is serving a three-year state sentence for assault. On Jan. 9, 2012, Judge Marshall sentenced Vasquez to 60 months in prison for her role in the fraud scheme and ordered her to pay more than $6.2 million in restitution to Medicare. A second co-defendant, David James Garrison, a physician assistant who worked at the fraudulent medical clinics with Vasquez and Aslanyan, is scheduled for trial on Feb. 7, 2012. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.
The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. for the Central District of California; Glenn R. Ferry, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Los Angeles Region of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; and Tony Sidley, Assistant Chief of the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.
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.
Since their inception in March 2007, strike force operations in nine districts have charged more than 1,160 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 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 the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team, go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov .