By Jim Kouri
A major takedown of an organized crime gang involved in health care fraud and corruption within the Medicare/Medicaid system demonstrates the crime problems the U.S. will face once Obamacare is fully implemented.
More than 70 suspects, including a number of alleged members and associates of an Armenian-American organized crime enterprise, were charged in indictments in five judicial districts with various health care fraud-related crimes involving more than $163 million in fraudulent billing, according to a report obtained by the Organized Crime Committee of the National Association of Chiefs of Police on Thursday.
In this national, multi-agency investigation, 52 suspects were nabbed by FBI agents in the largest Medicare fraud scheme ever perpetrated by a single criminal enterprise. The suspects were immediately charged by the Department of Justice.
Forty-four defendants were charged in two indictments unsealed in the Southern District of New York with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit the following acts: health care fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, fraud in connection with identity theft, credit card fraud and immigration fraud, according to a Justice Department report. In addition, seven defendants were charged in the District of New Mexico with health care fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, money laundering, forfeiture and aggravated identity theft.
“During the intense debate regarding passage of ObamaCare by Democrat lawmakers, very little if any mention was made of the potential for organized crime to infiltrate the medical services industry and those companies involved with hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other enterprises ripe for crime groups to milk,” said political strategist and attorney Michael Baker.
“In this case, the suspected gang members and associates are charged with engaging in numerous fraud activities, including highly-organized, multi-million dollar schemes to defraud Medicare and insurance companies by submitting fraudulent bills for medically unnecessary treatments or treatments that were never performed,” Baker said.
According to the federal indictments, the defendants allegedly stole the identities of doctors and thousands of Medicare beneficiaries and operated at least 118 different phony clinics in 25 states for the purposes of submitting Medicare reimbursements.
The international organized crime enterprise known as the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian, fleeced the health care system through a wide-range of money making criminal fraud schemes. The members and associates located throughout the United States and in Armenia, perpetrated a large-scale, nationwide Medicare scam that fraudulently billed Medicare for more than $100 million of unnecessary medical treatments using a series of phantom clinics, the indictments alleged.
Lastly, 10 defendants were charged in two indictments in the Central District of California with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, criminal forfeiture, aggravated identity theft, aiding and abetting, and causing an act to be done.
According to the charges filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian Organization is named for its principal leaders, Davit Mirzoyan and Robert Terdjanian. The leadership of the organization is based in Los Angeles and New York, and its operations extend throughout the United States and internationally.
Among the defendants charged with racketeering is Armen Kazarian, who is alleged to be a “Vor,” a term translated as “Thief-in-Law” and refers to a member of a select group of high-level criminals from Russia and the countries that has been part of the now defunct Soviet Union, including Armenia.
This is the first time a Vor has ever been charged for a racketeering offense, and the first time since 1996 that a known Vor has been arrested on any federal charge, according to federal officials.
“This case must be dissected and studied by law enforcement officials for the simple fact that Obamacare will dwarf the size of Medicaid/Medicare. Don’t forget, it’s one-sixth of the U.S. economy and it’s ripe for criminals to rip-off,” said former NYPD Detective John DeBarro who later investigated the medical industry for the NYC Health and Hospital Corporation.
The racketeering charges in this case carry a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit bank fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. The conspiracy to commit money laundering charges each carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The aggravated identity theft charges each carry a required two-year consecutive prison sentence to any other sentence imposed, the conspiracy to commit credit card fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit immigration fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The conspiracy to commit money laundering charges each carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with identity theft charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Six defendants also were charged in the Southern District of Georgia with health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. And another six defendants were charged in the Northern District of Ohio with health care fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and aggravated identity theft.