A Glendale man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he attempted to defraud Medicare by submitting more than $11 million in bogus claims for unnecessary medical services.
Karen Sarkissian, 43, and L’ Tanya Smith, 57, of Ladera Park, were arrested Wednesday in connection with the scheme, which authorities said is also tied to money-laundering and tax-fraud operations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Sarkissian reportedly operated Sunset Clinic in Echo Park and was working with Smith, who also pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege Smith, who was working as a physician’s assistant at the clinic, wrote prescriptions and ordered unnecessary medical services and tests between July 2009 and March 2010.
The patients were often recruited from cities as far as 50 miles away from the clinic and promised free services, according to U.S. District Court documents. Most tests and services were reportedly never offered to patients.
Sarkissian also laundered proceeds from the healthcare fraud at Sunset Clinic through five sham businesses, according to a U.S. District court indictment.
The businesses — Panorama Group Inc., Pegas Group Inc., Univision Group Inc., IFA Group Inc. and UFA Group Inc. — were set up by Khachatour Hakobyan, 46, and Aram Aramyan, 59, and were operated in Glendale, according to U.S. District Court documents.
Prosecutors allege the men, who are Glendale residents, deposited millions of dollars of proceeds from the healthcare fraud into the businesses’ bank accounts.
Then, Hakobyan and Aramyan wrote out checks from the accounts to themselves, Edgar Pogosian and family members, according to court documents.
Pogosian, 30, of Glendale is Hakobyan’s nephew and was also charged with alleged money laundering.
Prosecutors also allege Pogosian received checks from the bogus businesses and cashed or deposited them into his personal bank accounts.
Some of the checks reportedly indicated false business expenses, including costs of gas, mileage and traveling.
The funds were instead used for making mortgage payments, home remodeling and homeowner association fees, according to court records.
Hakobyan and Aramyan allegedly falsely reported their income on personal tax returns.
The two men, who have already pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges, also face charges for filing false tax returns.