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.