Five Men Arrested for $15 Million Medicare Fraud

Five individuals were arrested last week in Los Angeles on criminal charges related to their roles in a years-long scheme to defraud Medicare of more than $15 million through sham hospice companies and then to launder the fraud proceeds.

According to an indictment unsealed yesterday, three of the defendants—Petros Fichidzhyan, 43, of Granada Hills, California, Juan Carlos Esparza, 32, of Valley Village, California, and Karpis Srapyan, 34, of Van Nuys, California—allegedly operated a series of sham hospice companies that were purportedly owned by foreign nationals but were in fact owned by the three defendants. The defendants allegedly used the foreign nationals’ identifying information to open bank accounts, to sign property leases, and, by Fichidzhyan, to make phone calls to Medicare, and submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for hospice services. In submitting the false claims, the defendants misappropriated the identifying information of doctors, claiming to Medicare that the doctors had determined hospice services were necessary, when in fact the purported recipients of these hospice services were not terminally ill and had never requested nor received care from the sham hospices. In some instances, the defendants falsely claimed that the same beneficiary received services from multiple sham hospices.

Fichidzhyan, Esparza, and Srapyan, together with defendants Susanna Harutyunyan, 38, and Mihran Panosyan, 45, both of Winnetka, California, then allegedly laundered the proceeds fraudulently obtained from Medicare. The defendants are alleged to have spent the money on real estate and vehicles, among other things.

Fichidzhyan, Esparza, and Srapyan are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and aggravated identity theft. Fichidzhyan and Esparza are also charged with health care fraud. All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to launder money and money laundering. Fichidzhyan is further charged with making false statements. If convicted, all five defendants face a maximum penalty of at least 40 years in prison. Fichidzhyan, Esparza, and Srapyan face an additional mandatory minimum of two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft count.

The charges announced today are the most recent in the Justice Department’s ongoing effort to combat hospice fraud in the greater Los Angeles area.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting Assistant Director in Charge Krysti E. Hawkins of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Timothy B. DeFrancesca of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Los Angeles Regional Office made the announcement.

The FBI and HHS-OIG are investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Eric C. Schmale and Sarah E. Edwards of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.