Two owners and operators of a Los Angeles, California, home health agency were sentenced to 120 and 78 months in prison yesterday for their roles in a scheme to bill Medicare for various items and services, including home health services, diagnostic testing, medical procedures and durable medical equipment that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna of the Central District of California, Special Agent in Charge Christian J. Schrank of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Los Angeles Regional Office, Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division and Special Agent in Charge Ryan Korner of the IRS Criminal Investigations’ (IRS-CI) Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.
Angela Avetisyan, 43, of Glendale, California, was sentenced to 120 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II of the Central District of California, who also ordered Avetisyan to pay $4,283,674 in restitution and to forfeit all right, title, and interest in $172,000 seized by the government in May 2014, as well as six real properties purchased with fraud proceeds. The Court ordered Avetisyan to make an immediate partial restitution payment of $10,000.
Ashot Minasyan, 61, of North Hollywood, California, was sentenced to 78 months in prison by Judge Wright, who also ordered Minasyan to pay $4,283,674 in restitution and to forfeit all right, title, and interest in the same $172,000 and six real properties. The Court ordered Minasyan to make an immediate partial restitution payment of $100,000.
Avetisyan and Minasyan were charged along with Robert Glazer, 73, and Marina Merino, 62, both of Los Angeles, in a second superseding indictment returned in June 2015. On June 7, 2019, co-defendants Glazer and Merino were found guilty after a seven day trial of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud.
Avetisyan and Minasyan each pleaded guilty on Oct. 9, 2018, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. As part of their guilty pleas, Avetisyan and Minasyan admitted that as co-owners and operators of Fifth Avenue Home Health (Fifth Avenue), a home health agency located in Los Angeles, they engaged in a conspiracy with Glazer, Merino and others to recruit Medicare patients to Glazer’s clinic so that Glazer could use those patients’ information to bill for medically unnecessary outpatient clinic services and refer those patients for medically unnecessary home health services from Fifth Avenue and other home health agencies. Avetisyan and Minasyan further admitted that they paid Merino and other patient recruiters illegal kickbacks to bring Medicare patients to the Glazer clinic.
As found at sentencing by the Court, Avetisyan and Minasyan, along with their co-conspirators, submitted and caused to be submitted false and fraudulent claims for home health services that were medically unnecessary, for services that were not provided and for claims obtained by the payment of illegal kickbacks.
This case was investigated by the HHS-OIG, the FBI and IRS-CI. Trial Attorneys Claire Yan, Robyn N. Pullio and Emily Z. Culbertson of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case. The Asset Forfeiture Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California is handling the asset forfeiture aspects of the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative 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 its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 14 strike forces operating in 23 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & 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.
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