LOS ANGELES — A Glendale man suspected of being a high-ranking member of an Armenian American crime organization appeared in a downtown Los Angeles federal court Friday to face charges that he and dozens of other people submitted more than $100 million in bogus claims to Medicare.
Armen Kazarian, 46, was stoic as he stood in handcuffs next to his attorney, Vicken Hagopian, in a courtroom at the Roybal Federal Building.
U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin continued Kazarian's case to Oct. 19 because Hagopian said his client was planning to retain a new lawyer.
Kazarian is charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit health-care fraud. The racketeering charge alone carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to an indictment.
He and more than 70 others were arrested by federal prosecutors in connection with a major health-care fraud scheme that spanned the nation and resulted in Medicare paying out more than $35 million for fraudulent claims.
Kazarian and dozens of associates were arrested Wednesday during the FBI's take-down of the alleged scheme.
They reportedly set up at least 118 medical clinics in 25 states and billed more than $100 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare, according to court documents.
Four Glendale residents were also arrested on suspicion of establishing at least eight fraudulent medical clinics in the Los Angeles region and submitting more than $17 million in fake claims to Medicare, according to federal indictments. Medicare paid out $8 million in that operation.
Seven other Glendale residents were also named in the indictment and arrested in connection with the scheme.
Burbank residents Karen Markosian, 37, Artur Yepiskoposyan, 31, and Herayer Baghoumian, 54, also face fraud-related charges. Baghoumian also appeared Friday in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
Kazarian is suspected of being connected to the Armenian American crime enterprise known as the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian Organization, whose members and associates were suspected of carrying out the scheme.
The organization's members and associates allegedly stole the identities of doctors to bill the bogus claims. Medical treatments were never performed on patients, who were also never seen by physicians, officials said.
FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version that gave the incorrect defense attorney. Vicken Hagopian is the attorney who appeared in court.