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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2007 Press Release Index
    Release No. 07-020

    February 14, 2007

    NINE DOCTORS, NINE OTHERS INDICTED IN HEALTH CARE SCAM THAT BILKED FEDERAL MEDICARE PROGRAM OUT OF $12 MILLION BY GIVING UNNEEDED TREATMENTS TO ELDERLY, MENTALLY ILL

    Los Angeles, CA - Two indictments returned today by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana charge a total of 18 defendants, half of whom are medical doctors, with fraudulently billing Medicare for more than $12 million worth of treatments that were not needed or were never performed.

    The two indictments outline a scheme in which the doctors, "cappers" and administrators at board-and-care facilities worked together to provide respiratory treatments on elderly, infirm and mentally ill people that were unnecessary, not performed in accordance with Medicare's rules, or not performed at all. To facilitate the scheme, the doctors allegedly paid illegal kickbacks to cappers and board-and-care owners and administrators to make the elderly, infirm and mentally ill patients available for respiratory therapy.

    The first indictment charges 12 defendants with conspiracy and 68 counts of health care fraud. In addition, six of the doctors and three marketers are charged with money laundering. The defendants are:

    - Paul Arnold Lessler, 68, of Corona Del Mar, a physician;
    - Alexander Zinovy Rivkin, 38, of Los Angeles, a physician;
    - Gershon Walter Hepner, 68, of Los Angeles, a physician;
    - Xinming Fu, 45, of Irvine, a physician;
    - Ramin Sarshad, 38, of Los Angeles, a physician;
    - Aginah M. DeBerry, 54, of Colorado Springs, a physician;
    - Michael Wayne Chapman, 53, of Cypress, a physician;
    - Truc Huy Dao, of Rowland Heights, a physician;
    - Glen Garcia Madrid, 42, of Yorba Linda, a marketer;
    - Levi Raitchik, 45, of Los Angeles, a marketer;
    - Schmuel B. Fogelman, 46, of Los Angeles, a marketer; and
    - Barbara Sue Thrash, 56, of Garden Grove, a board-and-care administrator.

    The second indictment charges six defendants with conspiracy to pay and receive illegal kickbacks for patient referrals. The defendants are:

    - David Todd Asher, 39, of Fullerton, a physician;
    - Emilita Nunez Canenea, 47, of San Dimas, a board-and-care owner and administrator;
    - Shahnaz Chadorbaf-Arastoo, 51, of Irvine, a board-and-care owner and administrator;
    - Magdalena Gonzales, 54, of Denver, a board-and-care administrator;
    - Hamid Rafizadeh, 51, of Escondido, a board-and-care administrator; and
    - Alexander Tanciano Tagaro, 59, of Perris, a board-and-care administrator.

    The 18 defendants will all be summoned to appear for arraignment on March 19 in United States District Court in Santa Ana.

    The indictments allege that the scheme targeted elderly, infirm and mentally ill residents of board-and-care facilities throughout Southern California. The doctors paid kickbacks to gain access to residents of board-and-care facilities. The doctors would order respiratory treatment for the residents regardless of whether the residents had respiratory conditions. Respiratory therapists were paid to go out to the board-and-care facilities to perform daily or almost-daily respiratory treatments on the residents. The therapists were ordered to entice the residents to undergo the treatments with gifts, such as sodas, candy and donuts. These respiratory treatments would take place without any doctor present, although Medicare requires that a doctor be present because of the potential danger of a reaction to the treatment. Further, the respiratory treatments were falsely billed as being performed at the doctors' offices or in a mobile medical van because Medicare prohibited the treatments being performed at board-and-care facilities.

    The doctors received more than $12 million from Medicare after submitting claims in this respiratory treatment scheme. In some cases, the doctors submitted bills for dates the patients were in hospitals and not at the board-and-care facilities, and when the doctors were out of the state or country.

    An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

    The defendants each face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for each health care fraud count, 20 years in federal prison for each money laundering count, and five years in prison for each conspiracy count.

    These cases are the product of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service and IRS-Criminal Investigation Division. The cases are linked to an earlier investigation into unneeded respiratory treatments that led to one doctor being sentenced to prison for 15 years, see: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cac/pr2006/126.html.

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    Release No. 07-020
    Return to the 2007 Press Release Index