Former Orange County Resident Pleads Guilty to Fleeing United States to Avoid Prosecution in Health Care Fraud Case
LOS ANGELES – A medical doctor who was facing charges in a federal health care fraud case when he fled the United States 14 years ago and faked his own death in Russia has pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his flight from justice.
Tigran Svadjian, 58, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Armenia who was residing in Newport Beach prior to fleeing the country in September 2002, pleaded guilty yesterday before United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.
Svadjian pleaded guilty to unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, the sole count in an indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on September 2, 2016.
In a case filed in 2002 in Sacramento, Svadjian was charged in a scheme to defraud Medi-Cal by submitting bills for tests that had not been performed, in many cases because the “patients” were dead. After being ordered to appear in federal court in the Eastern District of California for an arraignment in that case, he went to Russia, leaving behind his wife and children.
On October 24, 2002, the United States Embassy in Moscow received notification that Svadjian had died of pneumonia and that his body had been cremated. The Embassy issued a report documenting the death, and Svadjian’s defense counsel submitted that report to federal prosecutors. In January 2013 after lengthy and unsuccessful attempts to locate Svadjian or to obtain further confirmation of his death, prosecutors in the Eastern District of California dismissed the health care fraud case.
During his change of plea hearing yesterday, Svadjian admitted that he paid a Russian police officer in 2002 to fake his death and submit an official report about his death to the United States Embassy. Soon after, Svadjian relocated to Hurghada, Egypt, where he occasionally worked as a scuba instructor.
Svadjian was taken into custody by Egyptian authorities on August 1 – nearly 14 years after he fled the United States. Svadjian had been deported to Egypt by Ukrainian authorities after they determined he was travelling on a fraudulent Lithuanian passport. Egyptian authorities discovered in his residence an old United States passport with his true name.
“Although this defendant’s attempted flight from justice delayed his prosecution, he could not escape it,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant developed an elaborate hoax to avoid prosecution, a scheme that involved faking his death and assuming a false identity. But he seriously underestimated the dedication of the Department of Justice, and he now faces the prospect of a lengthy stay in federal prison.”
“Mr. Svadjian’s luck in deceiving authorities in the U.S. and abroad for many years ultimately ran out,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “FBI Agents around the world took part in bringing Mr. Svadjian back to face the consequences of his actions. This case demonstrates not only the global reach of the FBI, but our commitment to holding accountable individuals who flee from justice, regardless of how far they run or how much time has passed.”
Judge Fitzgerald is scheduled to sentence Svadjian on February 9, at which time the defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bryant Y. Yang of the General Crimes Section.