United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Glendale Medicare Biller Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for Role in Sacramento Area Healthcare Fraud
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Docket #: 2:08-cr-00427 MCE
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Shushanik Martirosyan, 47, of Glendale, Calif., was sentenced today by Chief United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. to 18 months in prison for conspiring to commit health care fraud. She pleaded guilty on March 31, 2011, and testified at the May 2011 trial of three doctors involved in the scam. Judge England ordered Martirosyan to pay $1,558,620 in restitution.
According to testimony presented at the trial of Martirosyan’s co-defendants, Doctors Ramanathan Prakash, Alexander Popov, and Lana LeChabrier, Vardges Egiazarian, 63, of Panorama City, owned and controlled three health care clinics in Sacramento, Richmond, and Carmichael from February 2006 through August 2008,. Egiazarian and others recruited doctors to submit applications to Medicare for billing numbers. Authentic looking clinics staffed largely by unlicensed persons were established in Sacramento, Richmond, and Carmichael. The doctors never treated patients in the clinics as all of them lived hundreds of miles away, in the Los Angeles or Santa Barbara areas. Indeed, only Ramanathan Prakash ever set foot in any of the clinics, and only on two occasions when patients were not present. The doctors established the Medicare provider number for the clinics and established bank accounts for the clinic, into which Medicare funds were deposited and used by the conspirators.
According to evidence at trial, clinic patients, almost all of whom were elderly and non-English speaking, were recruited and transported to the clinics by individuals who were paid according to the number of patients they brought to the facilities. Rather than being charged a co-payment, the patients were paid for their time and the use of their Medicare eligibility, generally $100 per visit. False charts were created stating that each patient received comprehensive exams and a broad array of diagnostic tests. Few of these tests were ever performed, none were performed based on any medical need, and clinic employees filled out other portions of the charts using preprinted templates. Some clinic employees admitted to performing various tests on themselves, and placing the results in patient files.
Patient files were then transported to Southern California where the doctors signed them indicating they provided or approved the treatments. Martirosyan then billed Medicare for dozens of procedures per patient, often procedures that were highly unusual compared to other Medicare providers. In all, the three clinics submitted more than $5 million worth of fraudulent claims to Medicare, $1.7 million of which was actually paid.
In sentencing Martirosyan, Judge England noted that Martirosyan had participated in a very large and sophisticated scheme to defraud a healthcare system designed to provide crucial services to a vulnerable population.
“Medicare pays for the delivery of health care services to millions of Americans,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner remarked. “Those who defraud Medicare undermine this program and divert dollars that should be spent on services for those who really need them. We will continue to prosecute vigorously those who defraud the Medicare program.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Philip Ferrari and Jean M. Hobler prosecuted the case.
Others who were charged in this matter include:
- •Ramanathan Prakash, a doctor involved with the Sacramento clinic, is currently serving 10 years in prison.
- Lana Le Chabrier, a doctor involved with the Richmond clinic was sentenced to six and a half years in prison after a jury found her guilty on July 8, 2011.
- Vardges Egiazarian pleaded guilty early in the case and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
- Alexander Popov, a doctor involved with the Sacramento clinic, is currently serving eight years and one month in prison.
- Derrick Johnson, a doctor involved with the Richmond clinic, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
- Nazaret Salmanyan, an unlicensed ultrasound technician who worked at all three clinics, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
- Zoya Belov, a nurse licensed in Russia but not the United States who worked at all three clinics, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
- Migran Petrosyan, one of the clinic owners, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
- Liw Jiaw Saechao, aka Jenny Saechao, recruited patients, pleaded guilty, and is awaiting sentencing.
- Emilio Cruz, a doctor involved with the Carmichael clinic, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.