OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a settlement against a Southern California doctor for submitting false claims to Medicare and Medi-Cal between the years of 2011 and 2018 for drugs, procedures, services, and tests that were never administered to patients. As part of today's settlement, Dr. Kochumian will pay a total of more than $9.48 million with the state of California receiving $630,099 of that sum, plus accrued interest.
“When doctors misuse the state's Medi-Cal funds, they violate their Hippocratic Oath by harming a program which exists to help California’s Medi-Cal population, including the elderly, the sick, and the vulnerable,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Dr. Kochumian’s alleged misconduct violated the trust of the patients in his care, and he selfishly pocketed funds that would otherwise have gone towards critical publicly funded healthcare services. My office is committed to ensuring honest care is provided to those that seek it through the Medi-Cal program. Today’s settlement sends a message: Deceitful actions that jeopardize state funds and prey on Medi-Cal recipients will not be tolerated. I applaud the important contribution of the two whistleblowers who alerted law enforcement to Dr. Kochumian’s unlawful actions."
“Investigating allegations of health care fraud is an important priority for the United States Attorney’s Office,” said U.S. Attorney Talbert. “My office will continue to work closely with our federal and state partners to protect our publicly funded health care programs from the type of egregious fraud and abuse that occurred in this case.”
“Providers who exploit their status as medical professionals for financial gain undermine patient trust and waste valuable taxpayer dollars,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven Ryan, of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG remains committed to working tirelessly alongside our law enforcement partners to protect federal health care programs from fraud.”
Dr. Kochumian is an internal medicine practitioner who owned and operated a medical clinic located in Northridge, California. The case, U.S. and State of CA ex rel., Oganesyan, et al. v. Minas Kochumian, Minas Kochumian, M.D., a Medical Corporation, et al. was filed in the Eastern District of California, in October 2017 under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the California and Federal False Claims Acts. The Acts permit private parties to file suit on behalf of both the State of California and the United States for false claims which defraud the government and to share in a portion of the governments’ recoveries. The qui tam suit, filed by two whistleblowers, Dr. Kochumian’s former medical assistant and his former informational technology consultant, alleged that between November 2011 and April 2018, Dr. Kochumian defrauded Medi-Cal by knowingly billing for medical services, tests, and procedures which were not provided to patients. As part of their share of the California settlement, the qui tam plaintiffs will receive $116,568.
In October 2021, the California Department of Justice’s Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (DMFEA) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California intervened in the qui tam lawsuit following a joint investigation into Dr. Kochumian’s billing practices. During the course of the investigation, documentation from Kochumian’s office had revealed five categories of medical services which were the focus of the fraudulent billing schemes. These included X-rays/ultrasounds, allergy tests, various skin treatments, routine medication injections, and injections of specific high-cost medications. As part of today's settlement, the state of California will receive $630,099 — double the damages which were incurred by Medi-Cal.
Dr. Kochumian's fraudulent billing practices were also the subject of an independent federal criminal investigation initiated by a healthcare fraud strike team based in the Central District of California. The investigation culminated in Dr. Kochumian pleading guilty to one count of federal health care fraud, and on May 2, 2022, he was sentenced to a prison term of three years and five months and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5.4 million.
The California Department of Justice’s DMFEA protects Californians by investigating and prosecuting those who defraud the Medi-Cal program as well as those who commit elder abuse. These settlements are made possible only through the coordination and collaboration of governmental agencies, as well as the critical help from whistleblowers who report incidences of abuse or Medi-Cal fraud at oag.ca.gov/dmfea/reporting.
DMFEA receives 75% of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $50,522,020 for federal fiscal year 2021-2022. The remaining 25% is funded by the State of California. The federal fiscal year is defined as October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022.
A copy of the settlement agreement can be found here.