Final Defendants in Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Case Sentenced to Federal Prison Terms
LOS ANGELES – With the final defendant receiving a prison term yesterday, six defendants who participated in a multi-million dollar health care fraud scheme or helped launder the illicit proceeds have now been sentenced to federal prison.
Edgar Pogosian, also known as “Edgar Hakobyan,” 32, of Glendale, was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in prison. Pogosian was found guilty earlier this year of conspiring to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering.
“Over the course of nearly seven years, this defendant engaged in a wide-ranging money laundering conspiracy in which he received 150 checks and personally laundered over $700,000 in health care fraud proceeds,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “All of the defendants in this case played a vital role in a scheme that bilked the taxpayers who finance Medicare and utilized sophisticated money laundering techniques to hide their crimes.”
Over the past month, United States District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez sentenced two other defendants involved in the scheme:
Karen “Gary” Sarkissian, 44, also of Glendale was sentenced on September 12 to 57 months in federal prison after the same jury that convicted Pogosian found him guilty of conspiring to commit money laundering, six counts of money laundering and five counts of health care fraud; and
L’Tanya Smith, 58, of Ladera Heights, was sentenced on August 22 to 57 months imprisonment after she pleaded guilty to five counts of health care fraud.
Pogosian and Sarkissian were found guilty in February by a federal jury following a four-week trial before Judge Gutierrez. Smith pleaded guilty on the eve of trial.
Sarkissian operated a clinic on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park and worked there with Smith, a physician’s assistant. Between July 2009 and March 2010, Smith prescribed or ordered medically unnecessary tests and services, some of which were never provided to the patients. Those prescriptions and orders led to more than $1.2 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare from the Sunset clinic. Other providers that received referrals from the Sunset clinic submitted another $10 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
“Laundering money does not make the criminals clean,” said Chris Schrank, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “Dirty money will be tracked down, reclaimed and those responsible will pay the price. We will work to protect Medicare from illicit drains on the resources it needs to care for the nation’s most vulnerable population.”
Sarkissian also participated in a scheme that laundered the fraudulent proceeds generated through the Sunset Clinic through five bogus corporations set up by two other men, Khachatour Hakobyan (Pogosian’s uncle) and Aram Aramyan, who were previously convicted and sentenced in this case.
Hakobyan, 48, of Glendale, who prosecutors argued was the overall leader of the scheme, was sentenced in January 2016 to 57 months in prison and was ordered to pay $606,681 in restitution after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder health care fraud proceeds through the five sham corporations and underreporting his income from the conspiracy on his federal income tax returns. Aramyan, 60, of Glendale, was sentenced in November 2015 to 51 months in prison on similar charges and was ordered to pay $353,669 in restitution.
Hakobyan and Aramyan deposited millions of dollars in fraudulent proceeds into bank accounts for the five sham companies and then wrote checks from these corporations to themselves and their relatives, including Pogosian, who was found guilty based on evidence that he received more than $700,000 in checks from the sham corporations that he either cashed or deposited in his own bank accounts.
“Federal benefit programs such as Medicare are for the benefit of the American taxpayer, not the benefit of the common criminal,” said Anthony J. Orlando, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. “The sentences handed down to the defendants in this case demonstrates that crime costs criminals their freedom. IRS Criminal Investigation, in conjunction with our law enforcement partners, will continue to pursue and prosecute those who take advantage of programs meant for the public good.”
With these most recent sentences, six defendants have now been sentenced in relation to a health care fraud scheme related to multiple medical clinics, a durable medical equipment supplier and an independent diagnostic testing facility.
The sixth defendant, a doctor associated with one of those clinics – Claude R. Cahen, 74, of Santa Monica – pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud and was sentenced to 12 months and one day of imprisonment in March 2016.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; and IRS Criminal Investigation.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Cathy J. Ostiller, Kristen A. Williams and Cassie D. Palmer.