Return to the 2009 Press Release Index
Release No. 09-124
October 21, 2009
L.A. MEDICARE FRAUD STRIKE FORCE CHARGES 20 IN HEALTH CARE FRAUD CASES INVOLVING DURABLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT
Cases Involve More Than $26 Million in Fraudulent Medicare Claims
Twenty defendants, most of them residing in the Los Angeles area, have been charged in seven separate cases with participating in Medicare fraud schemes that resulted in over $26 million in fraudulent bills to the Medicare program.
Federal and state authorities arrested seven of the defendants this morning, and seven others were taken into custody last week, as the result of an investigation by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force that targeted fraudulent durable medical equipment (DME) providers. The five defendants arrested today are scheduled to make their initial appearances in United States District Court in Los Angeles beginning this afternoon.
The seven cases announced today involve DME company owners and marketers who are accused of engaging in a variety of schemes that defrauded the Medicare program through fraudulent bills which total over $26 million. The six indictments and one criminal complaint outline schemes involving the fraudulent ordering of power wheelchairs, orthotics (devices designed to assist with orthopedic problems) and hospital beds.
“The Strike Force has been an effective tool to address a long-standing problem in my district,” said Acting U.S. Attorney George S. Cardona. “The nearly two dozen people charged in recent weeks are linked to approximately $26 million in fraudulent billings. That money is better spent paying for the medical needs of legitimate patients.”
Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer stated: “Today's indictments and arrests are important achievements in our ongoing fight against Medicare fraud, but there is more that we can, and will, do. Our Medicare Fraud Strike Force will continue to be vigilant in rooting out criminals who masquerade as health care providers in order to steal from American taxpayers. Every dollar stolen from the Medicare program is one dollar too many.”
In the first case unsealed today, Michael Martinez, 30, of Long Beach, and six other defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and making false statements to the government. Martinez allegedly recruited relatives and individuals linked to the Santa Ana-based Brook Street Gang to act as straw owners for four fraudulent DME companies. The six other defendants – Angel Michel, 36, of San Diego; Guadalupe Alcaraz, 30, of Corona; Theresa Padilla, 23, of Moreno Valley; Pedro Franco, 28, of Torrance; Ricardo Navarro, 49, of Corona; and Martin Padilla, 42, of Moreno Valley – allegedly each received approximately $5,000 from a Martinez associate to act as the nominal owners of the fraudulent DME companies. In this way, the co-conspirators could deceive Medicare by concealing the true identities of those who actually owned the companies. The indictment alleges that as part of the conspiracy, the fraudulent DME companies – Mercy Medical Supplies, Inc.; Chatsworth Medical Equipment, Inc.; All Your Needs Healthcare Products, Inc.; and Global Meridian Management, Inc. – submitted approximately $11.2 million in fraudulent Medicare claims for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs and orthotic devices. This morning, authorities arrested Martinez, Theresa Padilla and Pedro Franco. Martin Padilla, Alcaraz and Michel are already in state custody on unrelated charges. Navarro is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities. If convicted on all counts in the indictment, Martinez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 75 years in federal prison, and the other six defendants each face maximum sentences of 15 years in prison.
“This case illustrates a disturbing practice involving the recruitment of nominees to commit identity theft in furtherance of large-scale fraud against the government,” said Keith Bolcar, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “The FBI and our partners with HHS and the California Department of Justice have had a tangible impact on fraud involving durable medical equipment, and will continue to devote investigative resources to the Medicare Strike Force.”
The owners of four DME companies and two of their employees were arrested on October 15 after being indicted for allegedly submitting more than $12 million in false claims to Medicare for power wheelchairs, orthotics and other medical equipment that the conspirators either did not supply, supplied to beneficiaries who did not need the equipment, or supplied to deceased beneficiaries. Christopher Iruke, 57, of Los Angeles, the owner of Pascon Medical Supply, and employee Darawn Vasquez, 25, of Inglewood, are alleged to have acquired fraudulent prescriptions and documents from individuals who recruited Medicare beneficiaries or were associated with fraudulent medical clinics. Iruke, Vasquez and Iruke's wife, Connie Ikpoh, 47, also of Los Angeles; as well as Jummal Joy Ibrahim, 54, of Las Vegas; and Asia Fowler, 38, of Pacoima, Calif.; who were the alleged owners of Horizon Medical Equipment and Supply Inc., Contempo Medical Equipment Inc., and Ladera Medical Equipment Inc., are alleged to have used the fraudulent prescriptions and documents Iruke and Vasquez acquired to submit approximately $12.1 million in false claims to Medicare. The indictment charges a sixth defendant, Aura Marroquin, 28, of Los Angeles, with participating in the scheme. If convicted on the charges alleged in the indictment, the six defendants face maximum possible sentences ranging from 50 years to 180 years in federal prison. A trial in this case has been scheduled for November 24.
Maria Nela Moreno, 56, of Parlier, California, was arrested today after being indicted in a conspiracy to submit approximately $828,835 in fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs through a Canoga Park. Moreno is also are charged with six counts of submitting false claims to the Medicare program. Moreno was arrested this morning in Fresno, and she faces a maximum possible sentence of 70 years in prison if convicted on all charged counts.
Anait Garanfilyan, 47, of Los Angeles, was arrested on October 15 after being indicted on multiple counts related to the payment of illegal kickbacks for Medicare patient referrals to two medical clinics in Los Angeles between February 2005 and May 2006. If convicted on all charged counts, Garanfilyan faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison. Garanfilyan is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.
Mariya Bagdasaryan, 54, and Edgar Srapyan, 26, both of Glendale, were indicted on charges of conspiring to commit health care fraud from October 2007 to December 2008. Bagdasaryan operated a fraudulent DME company called Goldberg Medical Supply and allegedly submitted approximately $779,028 in false claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories. Bagdasaryan also is charged with paying illegal kickbacks for the referral of Medicare patients to Goldberg Medical Supply. Srapyan, though a fraudulent DME company, True Care Medical Supply, is alleged to have submitted approximately $647,356 in false claims to Medicare for unnecessary power wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories. Bagdasaryan was arrested this morning, and authorities are still looking for Srapyan. If convicted on all charged counts, Bagdasaryan faces a maximum sentence of 90 years in prison. Srapyan faces a maximum sentence of 50 years if convicted on all counts.
Adejare Ademefun, 55, of Inglewood, was arrested this morning after being indicted on charges of conspiring with others to submit more than $850,000 in false claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs. Ademefun is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and five counts of health care fraud. If convicted on all charged counts, Ademefun faces a maximum possible sentence of 60 years in prison.
Sylvester Ijewere, 49, of Arleta, and Donna Wells, 50, of Hayward, were named in a criminal complaint that charges each of them with one count of health care fraud. Ijewere and Wells are associated with a DME company called Maydads that allegedly was used to submit nearly a half million dollars in false claims to Medicare. Ijewere was arrested this morning, and authorities are still seeking Wells. If convicted, Ijewere and Wells face a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
“Today's successful joint agency operation is another example of how the Medicare Strike Force has proven to be an effective tool against those who intend to rip off the Medicare program and the tax payers,” said Glenn R. Ferry, Special Agent in Charge for the Los Angeles Region of the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health of Human Services. “Our team of agents and prosecutors will continue to aggressively pursue all those who prey on our Medicare population in the Los Angeles and surrounding areas.”
An indictment merely contains allegations that a defendant or defendants have committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at trial.
The Strike Force cases were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG); and the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medical Fraud and Elder Abuse.
Since inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in four districts have resulted in indictments of 331 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $720 million. In addition, 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 and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov. Anyone with information that could assist the ongoing Strike Force investigation is encouraged to contact investigators with the Department of Health and Human Services by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS, or emailing HHSTips@oig.hhs.gov.
Release No. 09-124
Return to the 2009 Press Release Index