FORMER EMPLOYEES OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AMBULANCE COMPANY AND DIALYSIS CENTER PLEAD GUILTY TO MEDICARE FRAUD CHARGES
WASHINGTON – A former employee of a Southern California ambulance company and a former employee of a Los Angeles dialysis treatment center both pleaded guilty today to fraud charges for their roles in a fraud scheme that resulted in more than $6.6 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare. Three other individuals charged in the case previously pleaded guilty.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown of the Central District of California, Special Agent in Charge Christian J. Schrank of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Los Angeles Region and Acting Assistant Director in Charge Danny Kennedy of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division made the announcement.
Aharon Aron Krkasharyan, 53, of Los Angeles, California, pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Maria Espinoza, 47, also of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks for health care referrals. U.S. District Judge George H. Wu of the Central District of California accepted the guilty pleas. Krkasharyan is scheduled to be sentenced on March 29, 2018, and Espinoza is scheduled to be sentenced on April 2, 2018.
Krkasharyan was employed as the Quality Improvement Coordinator for Mauran Ambulance Inc., an ambulance transportation company operating in the greater Los Angeles area that provided non-emergency services to Medicare beneficiaries, many of whom were dialysis patients. According to admissions made in connection with his plea, between June 2011 and April 2012, Krkasharyan conspired with other Mauran employees to submit claims to Medicare for ambulance transportation services for individuals who did not need such services. Krkasharyan also admitted that he and his co-conspirators instructed Mauran emergency medical technicians to conceal the patients’ true medical conditions by altering paperwork and creating fraudulent reasons to justify the ambulance services.
Espinoza was an administrative assistant at DaVita Doctors Dialysis of East Los Angeles. As part of her guilty plea, Espinoza admitted that she conspired with an employee of Mauran to receive cash kickbacks in return for referrals of dialysis patients to Mauran for whom Mauran submitted claims to Medicare for non-emergency ambulance transportation services.
Earlier this month, Toros Onik Yeranosian, 55, the former owner of Mauran, and Oxana Loutseiko 57, the former general manager of Mauran, each pleaded guilty before Judge Wu to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud for their roles in the fraud scheme. The former Dispatch Supervisor at Mauran, Christian Hernandez, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in December 2015.
In connection with his guilty plea, Yeranosian admitted that during the course of the conspiracy, Mauran submitted to Medicare at least $6.6 million in false and fraudulent claims for medically unnecessary transportation services, of which Medicare paid at least $3.1 million. As part of their plea agreements, all five defendants agreed to pay restitution to Medicare.
The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and 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. Trial Attorneys Alexis D. Gregorian and Jeremy R. Sanders of the Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 3,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $12.5 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.