Kickback and Relax in Prison

Medicare enrollment form and glasses

Akop Atoyan, 48, of California has pleaded guilty to two counts of healthcare fraud.

Atoyan and his wife, Liana Karapetyan, owned ANG Health Care Inc., Excel Home Healthcare Inc., and Excel Hospice Inc. As owners of these Sacramento-based home healthcare and hospice agencies, the husband-and-wife duo certified to Medicare that they would not engage in paying kickbacks for Medicare beneficiary referrals to their agencies. (Well, they lied.)

Between July 2015 and April 2019, the couple “paid and directed others to pay kickbacks to multiple individuals for beneficiary referrals.” John Eby, a registered nurse, Anita Vijay, the director of social services at a nursing and assisted living facility, Jai Vijay, Anita’s husband, and Mariela Panganiban, the director of social services at another nursing facility, were all kickback recipients. (It sounds like everyone wanted in on the deal.)

Atoyan, his wife, and their recruited partners submitted more than 8,000 fraudulent claims to Medicare. (That’s a lot of paperwork.) The illegal claims submitted included the cost of the home healthcare and hospice services.

Overall, Medicare paid $31 million to the agencies. (You could say this was a very lucrative scheme, until it wasn’t.) Approximately $2 million of the funds were for services provided to the beneficiaries who were referred by the individuals listed above in exchange for kickbacks.

Atoyan admitted to conspiring to commit healthcare fraud and to conspiring to pay and receive healthcare kickbacks. He will pay $2,525,363 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and forfeit the same amount to the United States.

Atoyan’s sentencing is scheduled for October 7, 2021. He could face up to ten years in prison for conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. He may also face up to five years in prison for conspiracy to pay and receive healthcare kickbacks. Lastly, Atoyan may be fined $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss for each of the two charges. (There’s a good chance that those illegal kickbacks will lead this fraudster to prison where he will most definitely not have the opportunity to kick back and relax.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Owner of Sacramento Area Home Health Care and Hospice Agencies Pleads Guilty to Medicare Fraud,” dated July 15, 2021.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Akop Atoyan, 48, of Glendale, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, Atoyan and his wife, Liana Karapetyan, owned and controlled home health care and hospice agencies in the greater Sacramento area: ANG Health Care Inc., Excel Home Healthcare Inc., and Excel Hospice Inc. On behalf of the agencies, Atoyan and Karapetyan certified to Medicare that they would not pay kickbacks in exchange for Medicare beneficiary referrals to the agencies.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.