Thursday, July 23, 2009

Six Defendants Sentenced In Alleged Health Care Fraud Crime Ring In Los Angeles County Superior Court

On July 16, 2009, the final defendant in a multi-defendant health care fraud case filed by the Organized Crime Unit of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office was sentenced in LASC Case No. BA338353 by Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler.

The six defendants, all from the North Hollywood, Glendale and Van Nuys areas, were charged with conspiracy, money laundering and grand theft of personal property and were accused of running a crime ring that stole nearly $2 million from federal and private health insurers. It was alleged the crimes occurred between March 2005 and September 2006. The sentences in these cases were state prison terms ranging from four years to 16 months.

Defendant Edkar Mikirtijyan was sentenced on July 16, 2009 to a four-year state prison term by Judge Fidler. Mr. Mikirtijyan pleaded guilty on June 9 to conspiracy to commit grand theft and money laundering. He also admitted the aggravated white collar crime enhancement, which adds time to any sentence. Judge Fidler also ordered Mr. Mikirtijyan and the other defendants to pay $1.987 million in restitution to Medicare.

The other defendants and their sentences are:

Karapet Khacheryan, four years in state prison for conspiracy and money laundering;

Hovik Joe Altunyan, four years state prison for conspiracy and money laundering;

Grigor Khorikyan, 16 months for conspiracy and money laundering;

Vahan Harutyuyan, four years from conspiracy and money laundering; and

Smbat Khachtryan, 24 months for conspiracy, money laundering and possession of an assault weapon.

All defendants except Khorikyan and Khachtryan admitted the excessive taking enhancement.

Attorney Commentary: This case was notable since it was filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and was referred to the District Attorney’s Office following an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. It began as a drug and money laundering investigation, later expanding to include health care fraud. Federal and state agencies cooperated on the health care fraud issues. The District Attorney's Office is becoming more involved in these cases, especially where there are other state crimes alleged.

In the Los Angeles area, for the past years prosecutors have been prioritizing cases where Armenian and/or Russian speaking individuals are suspected of being part of an organized group involved in health care fraud cases.

In addition, these defendants were not licensed professionals but were individuals accused of taking the proceeds of Medicare and laundering them. It should be noted that in order for there to be Medicare billing a licensed professional has to be involved somewhere along the chain -- whether as a referring or treating physician. Thus, at some point along the way, a licensed professional will usually be involved unless there is simply pure fraud and identity theft.

Any questions or comments should be directed to: Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates in Los Angeles, California. They focus their practice on the representation of licensed professionals, individuals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings. They have a specialty in representing licensed health care providers. Their website is:


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