Federal authorities have charged two Pasadena pharmacy owners in a massive law enforcement action targeting health care fraud. The United States Attorney said a total of 33 defendants in Los Angeles including doctors, pharmacists, and an attorney have been indicted for alleged involvement in a wide range of schemes that collectively attempted to bilk public and private insurance programs out of more than $660 million.
Charged locally, the defendants are among hundreds of people charged across the U.S. in cases that cumulatively allege approximately $2 billion in false billings.
Todays announcement of the far-reaching law enforcement actions targeting a wide range of schemes and a large number of defendants demonstrates the excellent work by our law enforcement partners, said First Assistant United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison in a Department of Justice press release Thursday. Together, we will continue the hard work necessary to identify and hold accountable corrupt healthcare professionals and fraudsters seeking to line their pockets with your hard-earned money.
Armen Pogossian, 69, who owns L.A. Nova Pharmacy in Pasadena, was indicted for his role in the submission of $2.9 million in claims to Medicare Part D sponsors for prescription drugs that were never dispensed to Medicare beneficiaries, the press release said.
The five-count indictment alleges that Pogossian attempted to conceal the fraudulent claims from auditors by using fake invoices that purported to show the drugs had been obtained from wholesalers and thus were in the pharmacys inventory. The Department of Justice said the drugs were never even ordered from a wholesaler.
Tamar Tatarian, 37, the owner of Akhtamar Pharmacy, another Pasadena-based business, was named in a three-count indictment that alleges she participated in a scheme that submitted $1.3 million in claims to Medicare Part D sponsors for prescription drugs that also were never ordered from wholesalers, and thus never dispensed to Medicare beneficiaries.
The indictment said Tatarian attempted to conceal the fraud from auditors through the use of fake invoices.
Both of these cases are being investigated by the FBI and the HHS-OIG (the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and are being prosecuted by Department of Justice Trial Attorney Alexis Gregorian.
The Department of Justice said the nationwide sweep includes charges against 165 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals who allegedly participated in health care fraud schemes.
Most of the defendants in the Central District of California were charged for their roles in schemes to defraud health insurance programs such as Medicare. The cases allege health care fraud and kickback schemes involving surgeries, compounded drugs, home health services, Medicare Part D prescription drugs and hospice care.
Health care fraud schemes cost Americans billions of dollars every year through higher premiums and tax money stolen from public programs, such as Medicare, Wilkison said. There is an incredible array of scams, some of which involve services that are simply never provided, and some of which use complicated and sophisticated ruses to conceal illegal acts, such as bribes.
Victims of the scheme include the Department of Defenses TRICARE program, which provides civilian health benefits for U.S Armed Forces military personnel, military retirees, and their dependents, the Department of Justice said.