A Santa Barbara physician has been sentenced in federal court in Sacramento to six-and-a-half years in prison for her role in a Medicare fraud scam that involved Sacramento and Carmichael health-care clinics.
Lana Le Chabrier, 64, was found guilty by a jury July 8, 2011. She was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr.
Judge England found that La Chabrier abused her position of trust as a physician and was responsible for close to a million dollars in fraudulent billings submitted to Medicare and more than $400,000 in payments made on false claims.
Following her arrest and prior to trial, La Chabrier attempted to flee the United States and was apprehended at the Canadian border with $55,000 in cash, an expired United States passport and a bottle of hair dye, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Judge England found the attempted escape to be an obstruction of justice.
According to testimony presented at 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. Le Chabrier assumed the role of co-owner and practitioner at the Richmond clinic, and claims were submitted to Medicare under her name for medical services purportedly rendered at the clinic.
Le Chabrier, however, never treated patients at the clinic. The patients, almost all 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 or 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 $100 per visit, authorities said.
False charts were created stating that each patient received comprehensive exams and a array of diagnostic tests. Few of the tests were ever performed, none were 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 Le Chabrier signed them indicating that she provided or approved the treatments. In all, the three clinics submitted more than $5 million worth of fraudulent claims to Medicare, $1.7 million of which was paid.
In return for their roles, Le Chabrier and the other physicians received 20 percent of the billings paid under their respective provider numbers. When the Richmond clinic closed, Le Chabrier began the same activity at another fraudulent clinic in Burbank, authorities said.
The case resulted from an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Others who were charged in the case include:
Vardges Egizarian, who id serving six-and-a-half years in prison.
Alexander Popov, a doctor involved with the Sacramento clinic , who is serving eight years and one month in prison.
Ramanthan Prakash, a doctor involved with the Sacramento clinic, who was convicted at trial and is awaiting sentencing.
Derrick Johnson, a doctor involved with the Richmond clinic, who pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Nazaret Salmanyan, an unlicensed ultrasound technician who worked at all three clinics, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Zoya Belov, a nurse licensed in Russia but not the United States, who worked at all three clinics, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Shushanik Martirosyan, who billed Medicare as part of the scheme, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Migran Petrosyan, one of the clinic owners, who pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Liw Jiaw Saechao, aka Jenny Saechao, who recruited patients, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Another physician involved with the clinics, Emilio Cruz, was arrested on July 21, 2011 and remains in custody pending trial.