Liana Karapetyan has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks. Karapetyan is co-owner of Excel Hospice, ANG Health Care, and Excel Home Healthcare, all based in California.
Karapetyan and a co-owner of those companies are accused of paying at least $2 million in kickbacks to multiple parties for Medicare beneficiary referrals. The U.S. Justice Department has not released the name of the second individual implicated in the case. The pair made kickback payments to employees of hospitals, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, as well as spouses of those individuals, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.
“In total, Karapetyan and others caused the agencies to submit over 8,000 claims to Medicare for the cost of home health care and hospice services. Based on those claims, Medicare paid the agencies approximately $31 million,” the Justice Department indicated in a statement. “Because the agencies obtained the beneficiary referrals by paying kickbacks, the agencies should not have received any Medicare reimbursement.”
The alleged kickback recipients included John Eby, a registered nurse who worked for a hospital in Sacramento; Anita Vijay, the director of social services at a skilled nursing and assisted living facility; Jai Vijay, Anita Vijay’s husband; and Mariela Panganiban, the director of social services at a skilled nursing facility, according to prosecutors.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Inspector General investigated the scheme. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Thuesen is prosecuting the case.
Karapetyan will likely receive her sentence from U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley on Aug. 26. The maximum penalties for these changes include as many as 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss for each charge.
The alleged kickback recipients, Eby, Jai Vijay, Anita Vijay, and Panganiban, have also pleaded guilty and are likewise awaiting sentencing.
This court action follows another recent case involving Texas-based hospice provider Merida Health, which led to prison sentences for several individuals, including CEO Henry McInnis.
McInnis received a 15-year prison sentence for his role in certifying patients for hospice who were not terminally ill, bilking Medicare of $154 million. The conspirators in the Merida case were accused of lying to patients about their prognosis and falsifying medical records, among other violations.