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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / National Medicare Fraud Takedown Results in Charges Against 243 Individuals

National Medicare Fraud Takedown Results in Charges Against 243 Individuals

by Pasadena Independent
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Approximately $712 Million Stolen in False Billing

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced a nationwide sweep led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 17 districts, resulting in charges against 243 individuals, including 46 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $712 million in false billings. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also suspended a number of providers using its suspension authority as provided in the Affordable Care Act. This coordinated takedown is the largest in Strike Force history, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and loss amount.

The defendants are charged with various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services, including home health care, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME) and pharmacy fraud. More than 44 of the defendants arrested are charged with fraud related to the Medicare prescription drug benefit program known as Part D, which is the fastest-growing component of the Medicare program overall.

“This action represents the largest criminal health care fraud takedown in the history of the Department of Justice, and it adds to an already remarkable record of enforcement,” said Attorney General Lynch. “The defendants charged include doctors, patient recruiters, home health care providers, pharmacy owners, and others. They billed for equipment that wasn’t provided, for care that wasn’t needed, and for services that weren’t rendered. In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue our focus on preventing wrongdoing and prosecuting those whose criminal activity drives up medical costs and jeopardizes a system that our citizens trust with their lives. We are prepared – and I am personally determined – to continue working with our federal, state, and local partners to bring about the vital progress that all Americans deserve.”

According to court documents, the defendants participated in alleged schemes to submit claims to Medicare and Medicaid for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided. In many cases, patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries, and other co-conspirators allegedly were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never performed. Collectively, the doctors, nurses, licensed medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged are accused of conspiring to submit a total of approximately $712 million in fraudulent billing.

“The people charged in this case targeted the system each of us depends on in our most vulnerable moments,” said FBI Director James Comey. “Health care fraud is a crime that hurts all of us and each dollar taken from programs that help the sick and the suffering is one dollar too many.”

“Health care fraud drives up health care costs, wastes taxpayer money, undermines the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and endangers program beneficiaries,” said HHS-OIG Inspector General Levinson. “Today’s takedown includes perpetrators of prescription drug fraud, home health care fraud, and personal care services fraud, three particularly harmful types of fraud plaguing our health care system. This record-setting takedown sends a message to would-be perpetrators that health care fraud is a risky way to line your pockets. Our agents and our law enforcement partners stand ready to protect these vital programs and ensure that those who would steal from federal health care programs ultimately pay for their crimes.”

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged over 2,300 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $7 billion.

Including these enforcement actions, nearly 900 individuals have been charged in national takedown operations, which have involved more than $2.5 billion in fraudulent billings. This announcement marks the first time that districts outside of Strike Force locations participated in a national takedown, and they accounted for 82 defendants charged in this takedown.

The following accused are from the Los Angeles area:

-Artavazd Pashyan, 62, of Sunland, charged in a criminal complaint.

-Robert Glazer, M.D., 57, of North Hollywood, charged in a second superseding indictment.

-Angela Pogosov Avetisyan, charged in a second superseding indictment.

-Ashot Minasyan, 57, of North Hollywood, charged in a second superseding indictment.

-Marina Merino, 58, of Los Angeles, charged in a second superseding indictment.

-Oxana Loutseiko, 54, of Granada Hills, charged in an indictment.

-Christian Hernandez, 34, of Las Vegas, charged in an indictment.

-Maria Espinoza, 45, of Los Angeles, charged in an indictment.

-Joseph Altamirano, 56, of Los Angeles, charged in an indictment.

-Susan Nimo, 55, of Los Angeles, charged in a criminal complaint.

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