Armenian pleads guilty to conspiracy in massive Medicare fraud schem

Florida Times-Union, FL
Sept 21 2012

Armenian pleads guilty to conspiracy in massive Medicare fraud scheme

Posted: September 21, 2012 – 12:39pm
By Terry Dickson

BRUNSWICK | An Armenian national pleaded guilty Friday to helping set
up phony clinics in Brunswick and Savannah that were used to submit
nearly $400,000 in false Medicare claims.

Speaking through an interpreter, Khoren Gasparian, 29, acknowledged to
Chief U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood his role in a fraud scheme
that stretched from New York to Los Angeles.

Run from Los Angeles by Armenian immigrant Arthur Mansarian, the
scheme used doctors’ and patients’ identifications that were stolen to
submit more than $200 million in phony claims.

Mansarian, 49, pleaded guilty to submitting $7.4 million in false
claims through nine phony medical supply businesses and is serving a
14-year prison sentence. At his sentencing, Wood ordered him to repay
the government $1.8 million.

Shahak Tumanyan, 44, who pleaded guilty to money laundering, is
serving five years and must pay $309,000 in restitution. Tumanyan is
in the country illegally and will be deported as soon as he completes
his sentence.

When the government began making arrests in the scheme last year,
Gasparian was living in Moscow and saw international news accounts,
FBI Special Agent Tony Alig testified Friday in Gasparian’s change of
plea hearing.

Gasparian went to the U.S. legal attache’s office in Moscow and told
officials there of his role in the scheme, Alig said.

Familiar of the harsh treatment of suspects in Eastern Europe,
Gasparian was initially fearful, Alig said.

`When he was assured he would be treated politely and fairly, he
agreed to return,” Alig said.

Gasparian flew to Washington on July 7, 2011, and was arrested. He
admitted that the clinics he helped set up in Savannah and Brunswick
were `completely a fraud,” Alig testified.

He also confessed to similar activities in New Mexico, where he is
serving a three-year sentence in federal prison.

Rather than be tried on the charges in an indictment, Gasparian
pleaded guilty to a criminal complaint from the U.S. Attorney’s Office
for the Southern District of Georgia charging him with a single count
of conspiracy to commit medicare fraud.

To carry out his part of the scheme, Gasparian set up three storefront
clinics in Savannah called SOJ, Healthy Families and Savannah Medical,
and one in Brunswick called Brunswick Medical Supply. The later was on
Gloucester Street a few blocks south of the federal courthouse where
he entered his plea Friday.

Gasparian used stolen Medicare providers’ identifications to establish
the corporations, set up bank accounts and rented post office boxes
where Medicare mailed claims, Alig said.

The claims were typically for wheelchairs, walkers, canes and other
equipment. It caused some legitimate Medicare beneficiaries hardship
because when they tried to buy needed supplies, Medicare sometimes had
already paid a false claim for the same items.

The offices in the coast-to-coast scheme typically had only one
employee who picked up the mail and sent the checks to Manasarian’s
office in Los Angeles, where they were cashed at a liquor store, Alig
testified in an earlier hearing.

The identities of two physicians were stolen to establish the Savannah
clinics, Alig said.

Neither doctor know their Medicare provider numbers were being used, Alig said.

Alig said that although Gasparian used the stolen identities, he did
not personally steal them nor did he submit any false claims.

In fact, Medicare was warned of the scheme and did not pay any of the
$393,000 in false claims submitted through the shell corporations
Gasparian established, Alig said.

Medicare kept accepting the claims, Alig said, while he, Special Agent
David Graupner of Health and Human Services and other investigators
continued building their case.

Wood told Gasparian he could be sentenced up to three years in prison,
fined $250,000 and placed on three years probation. The government
agreed, however, for him to get a lighter sentence for admitting his
guilt and helping in the investigation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian
Rafferty said. The government also agrees that he may serve any
sentence concurrently with the one he already is serving in New
Mexico, Rafferty said.

Wood told Gasparian she would schedule his sentencing after federal
probation officers complete a pre-sentencing investigation.

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