Published on May 24th, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman0
Twelve Los Angeles-Area Residents Accused of Attempting to Bilk Medicare
Twelve Los Angeles-area residents-including California’s second-largest biller for chiropractic services, a physician’s assistant, and owners of durable medical equipment (DME) and ambulance companies-were taken into custody today in relation to seven criminal cases that allege they cumulatively submitted more than $22 million in false billings to Medicare.
The charges filed in Los Angeles are part of a nationwide “takedown” by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in eight cities that led to charges against 89 individuals for their alleged participation in schemes to collectively submit about $223 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
The dozen defendants taken into custody are among 13 people charged in Los Angeles in cases that allege health care fraud. The 12 either were arrested this morning or self-surrendered to authorities after learning that they had been charged in federal court. All those defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon. A 13th defendant is a fugitive.
Dr. Houshang Pavehzadeh, of the Sylmar Physician Medical Group, allegedly billed Medicare more than $1.7 million for chiropractic treatments he never performed. During the scheme, which ran from 2005 through 2012, Dr. Pavehzadeh, 40, of Agoura Hills, became the second-largest Medicare biller in California for chiropractic services-even though he was not in the United States when some of the alleged services were performed.
Nine defendants affiliated with DME companies were also charged in five separate indictments.
Olufunke Fadojutimi, 41, of Carson, a registered nurse; Ayodeji Temitayo Fatunmbi, 41, formerly of Carson and now believed to be residing in Nigeria; and Maritza Velazquez, 40, of Las Vegas, were charged with health care fraud. The scheme allegedly revolved around Lutemi Medical Supplies, a DME company Fadojutimi owned and where Fatunmbi and Velazquez worked.
Susanna Artsruni, 45, of North Hollywood, and Erasmus Kotey, 76, of Montebello, a licensed physician’s assistant, allegedly worked together to commit health care fraud out of a medical clinic on Vermont Avenue where they both worked. Kotey allegedly prescribed medically unnecessary DME, including power wheelchairs, for Medicare beneficiaries.
Three other DME cases were also charged, alleging fraudulent Medicare billing for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs that were sometimes never even delivered.
In the seventh case brought as part of today’s takedown, three defendants affiliated with Gardena-based ProMed Medical Transportation, an ambulance company, were charged with submitting more than $5.9 million in false claims to Medicare between 2008 and 2011.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The charge of health care fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. Money laundering carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year prison term.
Source: fbi.gov “Twelve Los Angeles-Area Residents Accused of Attempting to Bilk Medicare,” May 24, 2013.