Six Defendants Charged in Los Angeles as Part of Nationwide Medicare Fraud Strike Force Takedown
Strike Force Charges 91 Individuals Across the United States for Approximately $295 Million in False Billing
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 07, 2011|
LOS ANGELES—As part of a nationwide effort to target fraud against the Medicare program, two doctors and four others have been charged here for allegedly participating in schemes to defraud the Medicare program of nearly $11 million.
The charges brought by prosecutors in Los Angeles—four indictments naming six defendants—are part of coordinated action that resulted today in 70 defendants being charged by Medicare Fraud Strike Force prosecutors across the nation. In cases filed in six cities that were announced today by top officials with the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, prosecutors have alleged a variety of Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $263.6 million in false billings. Justice Department prosecutors also have recently charged an additional 21 defendants who are accused of participating in fraud schemes that sought more than $31 million. This coordinated action targeting a total of 91 defendants involves the highest amount of false Medicare billings in a single takedown in Strike Force history.
“The defendants charged in this takedown are accused of stealing precious taxpayer resources and defrauding Medicare—jeopardizing the integrity of our health care system and our nation’s most critical health care program for personal gain,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Our highly coordinated, nationwide Strike Force operations are working aggressively to combat Medicare fraud, and our anti-health care fraud efforts have never been more innovative, collaborative, aggressive—or effective. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and partners across government to fight against health care fraud.”
“The criminal prosecutions announced today are the result of a collaborative effort that demonstrate our resolve to target those intent on taking resources away from the sick and infirm among us,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “There is too much money being stripped from public health care programs. The impact to the Medicare system—as well as the impact to those with legitimate needs—demands action by law enforcement.”
In the first case unsealed today in Los Angeles, George Hakopian and Yervand Khachatryan are accused in a Medicare fraud scheme involving durable medical equipment (DME). Hakopian and Khachatryan were the owners of Midvalley Medical Supply, a DME supply company in Van Nuys. The indictment alleges that Midvalley, over a one-year period, submitted more than $4.8 million in claims for power wheelchairs and orthotics that either were not medically necessary or were never provided to Medicare beneficiaries. The fraud allegedly included claims for beneficiaries who were deceased at the time of purported services and parents of Midvalley employees. Hakopian and Khachatryan are also charged with laundering approximately $1 million that was the proceeds of their fraud. Hakopian, 54, of Tujunga, was arrested this morning by federal authorities and is scheduled to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Khachatryan, a 54, who at the time of the alleged scheme resided in Glendale, is a fugitive currently being sought by federal authorities.
Dr. Byung Ho Pak and Mary Lim are charged in an indictment for their roles in a Medicare fraud scheme involving fraudulent billing for physical therapy. But instead of providing physical therapy, the indictment alleges that patients received non-covered services such as acupuncture, acupressure and moxibustion (the burning of mugwort on the skin in an effort to improve circulation). The indictment alleges that Pak and Lim, who managed Pak’s Seoul East West Medical Center in Garden Grove, submitted approximately $2 million in claims to Medicare for services that were not provided. Medicare paid more than $1.4 million, according to the indictment. Pak, 71, of Orange, and Lim, 48, of Desert Hot Springs, were both arrested this morning. Pak is expected to make his initial court appearance tomorrow in United States District Court in Santa Ana. Lim is expected to make her initial appearance later this afternoon in federal court in Riverside.
In another case filed in Los Angeles, Dr. Owusu Firempong is charged with submitting approximately $1.3 million in claims to Medicare for diagnostic tests that either were not performed or were medically unnecessary, such as nerve conduction tests and sleep studies. Firempong allegedly submitted the fraudulent claims and was paid more than $780,000 by Medicare after he was evicted from his Los Angeles and Fountain Valley Medical Clinics. Firempong, 60, who resides in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, was arrested this morning and is expected to make his first court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court.
In the fourth case filed in Los Angeles, Zina Tamamian, 49, of North Hollywood, is charged with submitting approximately $2.9 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for DME—most of which was never provided to patients. A seven-count indictment alleges that Medicare suffered approximately $2.1 million in losses when it paid fraudulent claims for orthotic devices that were submitted through Tamamian’s company, Gana Medical Supply in Sherman Oaks. Tamamian is currently a fugitive.
“The FBI and its Strike Force partners are focused on identifying those who profit from Medicare fraud,” said Steven Martinez, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “Criminals are responsible for billing and fraudulently receiving millions of taxpayer dollars every year for services never performed and products never delivered. We are committed to eradicating these schemes that cost so much and compromise the care that legitimate Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to receive.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The Los Angeles cases were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; IRS - Criminal Investigation; and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.
The joint Department of Justice-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a multi-agency team of federal, state and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing. 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 Los Angeles and eight other locations have charged more than 1,140 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
Assistant United States Attorney Kristen A. Williams
Major Frauds Section
Assistant United States Attorney Consuelo S. Woodhead
Health Care Fraud Coordinator