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Attorney General Lockyer Announces Medi-Cal Fraud Criminal Convictions
(LOS ANGELES) - Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced today the successful prosecution of the leaders of a criminal fraud ring with suspected ties to Russian organized crime who bilked the state's Medi-Cal program of nearly $2 million.
"Prosecuting the two ring leaders dismantles a complex Medi-Cal fraud scheme and recovers the nearly $2 million stolen from the state program serving California's poor, elderly and disabled," Lockyer said. "The convictions are the latest in our fight against Medi-Cal fraud."
Defendants Mikhail Kopilevich and Micha Chelzinger were sentenced late Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court and ordered to pay $1.6 million in restitution and investigation costs. The court sentenced Kopilevich to three years in state prison and Chelzinger to 364 days in jail. A third convicted defendant, Phillip Farzad, D.D.S., will be sentenced on June 14, 2002, and faces an order to pay $400,000 in restitution. To pay the required restitution, Kopilevich and Chelzinger agreed in court to cooperate in the sale of their five real properties that were frozen by the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse earlier this year.
In the Medi-Cal fraud case, the defendants were found guilty of masterminding a massive scheme to defraud the Medi-Cal Dental program by stealing the identities of seven dentists and thousands of Medi-Cal patients. The scheme used "cappers" and "runners" to lure poor, minority Medi-Cal patients from Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Kern and Tulare counties to the defendants' Moreno Valley dental clinic. The beneficiary cards and other personal identification were taken from the victims and used to defraud the Medi-Cal program.
At the same time, the defendants obtained dentists' identities by placing job ads in the Los Angeles Times seeking licensed dentists, and requiring applicants to provide copies of both their dental licenses, as well as other personal documentation. With this information from unwitting dentists, the defendants applied for and received Medi-Cal provider status.
Using their Medi-Cal provider status and the beneficiary cards, the defendants began submitting thousands of bogus claims to the Medi-Cal program, falsely purporting that they had treated the patients. In fact, neither the dentists nor the patients had any idea that their identities had been stolen and were being used as part of an insidious conspiracy. Their complex scheme also included the use of fictitious storefronts, falsified bank accounts, and money laundering.
The investigation by the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse found suspected ties to Russian organized crime. A fugitive arrest warrant has been issued for a fourth defendant in the case, Marina Los, who is still at-large and is suspected of having fled to her native country of Russia.
Since becoming Attorney General in January 1999, Lockyer has made the prosecution of Medi-Cal fraud a top priority. As a result, over the course of the past three years, the BMFEA has filed almost 360 criminal filings and won nearly $40 million in court-ordered restitution. As point of reference for comparison purposes, the five years previous to 1999 only yielded a total of 195 criminal filings and $11 million in restitution. Late last year, the Attorney General received a national award from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for having the top-performing health care fraud and elder abuse prosecutorial program in the country.