Medicare Fraudster Given Maximum Prison Sentence
HOUSTON – A Houston woman and a California man have been ordered to federal prison for conspiring to defraud Medicare through so-called diagnostic testing labs in the Houston area, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. Zaven “George” Sarkisian, 55, of Fresno, California, and Konna Hanks, 48, of Houston, pleaded guilty Dec. 9 and 2, 2015, respectively.
Today, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison ordered Sarkisian to the serve the statutory maximum of 10 years in prison. In handing down the sentence, Judge Ellison imposed enhancements for obstruction of Medicare’s administrative investigation, leadership role, abuse of Medicare’s trust, sophisticated means and loss to a federal health care program of more than $1 million. The court noted Sarkisian’s conspiracy was plotted over a long period of time and was “extremely serious.” For her role, Hanks will serve a total of 37 months in prison. As part of their pleas, Sarkisian and Hanks acknowledged they caused actual losses in the amounts of $4,412,944 and $2,569,530, respectively. Both defendants were also ordered to pay full restitution to Medicare.
“The sentence imposed today demonstrates the gravity of Sarkisian’s actions,” said Martinez. “He created an elaborate scheme and used others to bilk millions out of Medicare even after they attempted to cut his federal funding.”
From 2012 to August 2014, Sarkisian formed 11 diagnostic testing “clinics” that the conspirators used to fraudulently bill Medicare for services and diagnostic tests that were not actually performed or were medically unnecessary. Hanks worked with Sarkisian at seven of the clinics and recruited and paid Medicare beneficiaries to attend his clinics.
Marketers such as Hanks paid Medicare beneficiaries to attend the clinics so they could use their Medicare numbers to fraudulently bill Medicare. Sarkisian paid these marketers $80 to $100 cash, knowing they would keep part of this fee and pay the rest to the beneficiary.
Sarkisian told co-conspirators to order ultrasounds, allergy tests and pulmonary function tests for each beneficiary, regardless of circumstances. He also instructed others to ensure every beneficiary had poor circulation, shortness of breath, heart problems and allergies written in their chart.
Medicare eventually put Sarkisian’s first clinic on pre-payment review, thus drastically slowing down the flow of Medicare payments. He then recruited others to form new clinics and to open bank accounts in their names even though Sarkisian would actually be the owner of the clinics and who received proceeds.
Sarkisian was taken into custody following the sentencing today where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Hanks had been previously on bond but was later ordered into custody for violating her conditions of release.
Two others - Darryl Johnson, 33, of Richmond, and Hmyak “Hamlet” Samsonyan, 47, of Katy, also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
The FBI Health Care Fraud Task Force, Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Chu and Jason Smith are prosecuting the case.