Three Southern California doctors with ties to the owner of clinics in Sacramento and Carmichael have been convicted of Medicare fraud by a federal jury in Sacramento.
Dr. Alexander Popov, 46, of Los Angeles; Dr. Ramanathan Prakash, 63, of Northridge; and Dr. Lana Le Chabrier, 62, of Santa Barbara, were convicted of conspiring to commit health-care fraud. In addition, Popov and Prakash were convicted on three individual counts of health care fraud, and Le Chabrier was convicted of a single additional count of health care fraud, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. The guilty verdicts were returned today after a monthlong trial before U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr.
According to testimony presented during the trial, from February 2006 through August 2008, Vardges Egiazarian, 63, of Panorama City, owned and controlled three health care clinics in Sacramento, Richmond and Carmichael. Egiazarian and others recruited doctors to submit applications to Medicare for billing numbers. These doctors would assume the role of owners and practitioners at the clinics, and claims would be submitted to Medicare under their names for medical services purportedly rendered at the clinics. Popov and Prakash fulfilled this role for the Sacramento clinic and Le Chabrier did the same for the Richmond clinic.
Officials said these doctors never treated patients at their respective clinics. Clinic patients, most of whom were elderly and did not speak English, were recruited and transported to the clinics by individuals who were paid according to the number of patients they brought to the facilities.
Rather than being charged a co-payment, the patients were paid for their time and the use of their Medicare eligibility, generally in the amount of $100 per visit, according to the news release. Patient charts were created, falsely stating that each patient received comprehensive exams and a broad array of diagnostic tests. In fact, officials said, few of these tests were performed, none was performed based on any medical need, and clinic employees filled out other portions of the charts using preprinted templates. Some clinic employees admitted to performing various tests on themselves and placing the results in patient files.
Patient files were then transported to Southern California, where Popov, Prakash and Le Chabrier signed them, indicating they provided or approved the treatments. The files were then used to support billing submitted to Medicare for treatments and services that were unnecessary, never performed, or both.
In all, the three clinics submitted more than $5 million worth of fraudulent claims to Medicare, $1.7 million of which was actually paid, according to the news release. In return for their roles, Popov, Prakash and Le Chabrier each received 20 percent of the billings paid under their respective provider numbers.
All three physicians were remanded to custody after the verdicts and are to be sentenced by Judge England on Sept. 29.
Others who previously pleaded guilty in this matter include:
Vardges Egiazarian, currently serving 78 months in prison.
Derrick Johnson, a doctor involved with the Richmond clinic, who is to be sentenced Aug. 25.
Nazaret Salmanyan, an unlicensed ultrasound technician who worked in the clinics and is to be sentenced July 28.
Zoya Belov, a nurse licensed in Russia but not the United States, who is to be sentenced Aug. 4.
Shushanik Martirosyan, who billed Medicare as part of the scheme and is to be sentenced July 28.
Liw Jiaw Saechao, aka Jenny Saechao, who recruited patients for the clinics and is to be sentenced Aug. 4.
Migran Petrosyan, one of the businessmen, who is to be sentenced July 28
Two other physicians involved with the clinics, Sol Teitelbaum and Emilio Cruz, have been indicted for their roles, according to the news release, but their whereabouts are unknown.
The case resulted from investigation by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.