Five People Were Arrested for Trying to Scam Medicare Out of More Than $15 Million Through “Sham Hospices”

Five People Were Arrested for Trying to Scam Medicare Out of More Than $15 Million Through Sham Hospices

The FBI said this week that five people were arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly trying to steal more than $15 million from the Medicare program.

Three people from the San Fernando Valley were arrested by the U.S. Department of Justice. They were identified as Petros Fichidzhyan, also known as Peter; Juan Carlos Esparza; and Karpis Srapyan, also known as Tony Levy. They were accused of running “sham hospice companies” and sending Medicare false claims for hospice services.

Federal officials said in an indictment made public this week that the three wanted Medicare payments for people who weren’t dying and who hadn’t been cared for at the fake hospices. Prosecutors say that the men sometimes said that the same patient had been cared for by more than one of the fake hospices.

Federal authorities say that as part of the alleged scheme, the three defendants stole the personal information of doctors and used it to say that those doctors had agreed that patients needed hospice care.

A federal indictment says they also used the names and Social Security numbers of Russian and Ukrainian citizens who had left the U.S. to open bank accounts and sign leases. This showed that the “impersonated identities” were really the owners of the hospice companies they ran.

The claimed scheme took place between February 2019 and January 2023, according to the charge. Two more people from the San Fernando Valley, Susanna Harutyunyan and her husband Mihran Panosyan, who was also known as Mike Hope, were charged with laundering the money with the other suspects.

Federal officials said that all five of the defendants would spend at least 40 years in jail if they were found guilty. For allegedly stealing identities, Fichidzhyan, Esparza, and Srapyan would have to spend at least two more years in jail.

A lawyer for Fichidzhyan did not reply right away to a request for comment. The Times couldn’t find right away who the lawyers for the other suspects were in court documents.

This case is being looked into by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The arrests were part of a bigger effort by the federal government to stop hospice fraud in the L.A. area, they said.

An study by The Times three and a half years ago found “audacious, widespread fraud” in the hospice business. The same thing was found by a state report in 2022: weak oversight had let “large-scale fraud and abuse” happen. It warned about “hospice agencies using possibly stolen identities of medical personnel.”

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