LOS ANGELES – Three people who were recently named in a superseding indictment that adds health care fraud charges to money laundering and tax fraud schemes were arrested this morning by federal authorities.
Edgar Hakobyan, 30, of Glendale; Karen Sarkissian, 43, of Glendale; and L’Tanya Smith, 57, of Ladera Park, were taken into custody without incident and are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court. These three defendants were named in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on March 27.
Previously in this case, two defendants were named in the original indictment that alleged a conspiracy to launder the proceeds of health care fraud through five sham corporations they owned and operated. Glendale residents Khachatour Hakobyan, 46, and Aram Aramyan, 59, have pleaded not guilty to charges that allege they
deposited millions in fraudulent proceeds into bank accounts for the bogus companies and then wrote checks from these corporations to themselves and their relatives, including Edgar Hakobyan. Khachatour Hakobyan and Aramyan have each been charged with five counts of filing false tax returns based on their failure to report all of their income from those corporations between 2007 and 2011. Khachatour Hakobyan and Aramyan are scheduled to go on trial on January 27, 2015, before United States District Judge Margaret M. Morrow.
Two of the defendants arrested today are charged with health care fraud related to a clinic on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. The clinic was operated by Sarkissian and employed Smith, a physician’s assistant. Between July 2009 and March 2010, Smith allegedly 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 $11 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare. Sarkissian is also charged as a part of the money laundering conspiracy based on his involvement in laundering the fraudulent proceeds generated through the Sunset Clinic through the corporations set up by Khachatour Hakobyan and Aramyan.
Edgar Hakobyan is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering based on his involvement in receiving checks from the sham corporations, which he either cashed or deposited in his own bank accounts.
Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez of IRS Criminal Investigation's Los Angeles Field Office stated, “The defendants have allegedly laundered millions of dollars of fraudulently obtained Medicare funds through their businesses, failing to report it as income. IRS Criminal Investigation will not stand still while criminals line their pockets with illicit proceeds obtained from publically funded health care programs.”
If they are convicted of the charges in the superseding indictment, the five defendants would face sentences of as much as 395 years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
As part of this investigation, charges have previously been filed against others associated with the money laundering and health care fraud schemes. Susanna Artsruni, of North Hollywood, has pleaded guilty and admitted she caused $25 million in fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare through three medical clinics and her own durable medical equipment company (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2014/002.html). Earlier this week, Erasmus Kotey, 77, of Montebello, pleaded guilty to health care fraud in relation to one of the clinics operated by Artsruni and a second unrelated clinic (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2014/038.html).
All of these cases are the products 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 cases were brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion.