5 Dr., 6 others indicted in Medicare Fraud

SACRAMENTO The indictment follows an extensive investigation by the /*Office of the Inspector General*/, Department of Health and Human Services, and the /*Federal Bureau of Investigation*/.

According to the indictment, the defendants operated three health care clinics in Sacramento, Richmond, and Carmichael that submitted more than $5 Million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, between February of 2006 and August of 2008.

The defendants include: Dr. Alexander Popov, 44, of Los Angeles; Dr. Ramanathan Prakash, 63, of Northridge; Dr. Emilio Cruz III, 57, of Los Angeles; Dr. Lana Le Chabrier, 62, of Santa Barbara; Dr. Sol Teitelbaum, 82, of Los Angeles; Migran Petrosyan, 39, of Burbank; Khachatur Arutunyan, 51, of Tujunga; Shushanik Martirosyan, 43, of Glendale; Zoya Belov, 35, of Carmichael; Nazaret Salmanyan, 27, of Citrus Heights; and Liw Jiaw Saechao, 44, of Sacramento.

The alleged leader of the conspiracy is identified as Vardges Egiazarian, 60, of Panorama City, who was named in an original indictment on the Richmond Clinic.

The original indictment also charged Le Chabrier, Petrosyan, and Arutunyan, as well as Dr. Derrick Johnson with health care fraud.

Egiazarian pleaded guilty on August 12, 2009. In his plea, he admitted that claims were submitted to Medicare for patients at each of the three clinics whom the physicians did not treat, and reimbursement was sought for procedures that were either unnecessary or never performed. Egiazarian also admitted the clinic's patients were recruited and transported to the clinic by individuals, who were paid according to the number of patients they brought to the facility.

The patients were then paid about $100 for their time and the use of their Medicare eligibility. Furthermore, some of the patients for whom billings were submitted at the Richmond Clinic were actually deceased on the date that they allegedly received services. On November 6, 2009, Egiazarian was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and ordered to pay over $1.5 million to /*Medicare*/ in restitution.

On September 9, 2009, Derrick Johnson entered a guilty plea to the original indictment. He admitted that hundreds of Medicare claims for services he allegedly performed at the Richmond clinic were submitted on his behalf, yet he had never set foot in the facility nor had he had any contact with its purported patients. He has yet to be sentenced.

The superseding indictment returned last Thursday adds both a conspiracy charge and allegations relating to the Richmond Clinic, and adds the Sacramento and Carmichael Clinics. It charges that Doctors Popov, Prakash, Le Chabrier and Cruz each submitted applications to Medicare seeking approval to submit claims for medical services that were seldomly rendered at the clinics. In some instances, clinic employees performed procedures such as ultrasounds or blood draws on themselves or each other, and then placed the results in files relating to Medicare-eligible beneficiaries. According to the indictment, the money paid by Medicare on these claims was distributed among the members of the conspiracy.

The defendants face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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