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Nine doctors are indicted in alleged scam

Times Staff Writer

Nine doctors, six healthcare administrators and three associates were indicted Wednesday in a scam in which doughnuts, candy and other gifts were used to lure elderly and mentally ill patients into more than $12 million worth of unnecessary respiratory treatments that were fraudulently billed to Medicare, federal officials said.

The alleged insurance scheme is outlined in two separate indictments handed up by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana. With the exception of a physician and administrator from Colorado, all the defendants are from Southern California.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned March 19 on charges including healthcare fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.

The indictment alleges that doctors paid kickbacks to board-and-care administrators and other associates known as “cappers” to gain access to residents, then ordered respiratory treatment for those residents regardless of whether they were suffering from such conditions.

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Therapists were paid to treat the residents, who were enticed with sodas, candy and doughnuts, authorities say.

Doctors were not present, in violation of Medicare requirement because of the potential danger of a reaction to the treatment, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

Further, the respiratory treatments were falsely billed as being performed at the doctors’ offices or in a mobile medical van because Medicare prohibits such treatments at board-and-care facilities, the indictment alleges.

The doctors received more than $12 million in Medicare claims, in some cases submitting bills for dates the patients were in hospitals and not at the board-and-care facilities, and when the doctors were out of the state or country, the indictment says.

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The defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The indicted Los Angeles County doctors are Truc Huy Dao, of Rowland Heights; Gershon Walter Hepner, 68, of Los Angeles; Alexander Zinovy Rivkin, 38, of Los Angeles; and Ramin Sarshad, 38, of Los Angeles.

The Orange County doctors are David Todd Asher, 39, of Fullerton; Michael Wayne Chapman, 53, of Cypress; Xinming Fu, 45, of Irvine; and Paul Arnold Lessler, 68, of Corona Del Mar.

The ninth doctor, Aginah M. DeBerry, 54, is from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The indicted board-and-care administrators are Barbara Sue Thrash, 56, of Garden Grove; Shahnaz Chadorbaf-Arastoo, 51, of Irvine; Emilita Nunez Canenea, 47, of San Dimas; Hamid Rafizadeh, 51, of Escondido; Alexander Tanciano Tagaro, 59, of Perris; and Magdalena Gonzales, 54, of Denver.

Also indicted were Glen Garcia Madrid, 42, of Yorba Linda; Levi Raitchik, 45, and Schmuel B. Fogelman, 46, both of Los Angeles.

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christine.hanley@latimes.com

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