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Brown Announces Arrests In Health Care Scam

Friday, October 19, 2007
Contact: (415) 703-5837

LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the arrest of four suspects involved in a $1.5 million “fake healthcare clinic” scam. The suspects created a health clinic and recruited people to undergo unnecessary medical tests, with the sole purpose of filing false claims with Medi-Cal and Medicare.

Commenting on the arrests, Attorney General Brown said, “The suspects create a fake healthcare clinic to line their own pockets rather than help the sick and elderly. These arrests send a strong message that this kind of rip-off will not be tolerated.”

The 4 defendants, arrested yesterday morning at various locations in Los Angeles County, are: Richard Melkonyan, Akop Melkonian, Lilit Baghdasaryan, and Dr. Rito Castanon-Hill. Dr. Neil Hollander has agreed to surrender next week. David James Garrison remains at large.

The suspects operated Scott Medical Center in Burbank and hired two physicians, Dr. Hollander and Dr. Castanon-Hill, to create a front for a physician assistant who falsified records and billed for procedures not actually performed. The suspects recruited patients to undergo unnecessary exams and then the clinic operators and medical supply company billed Medi-Cal and Medicare.

Baghdasaryan supplied false information to the Franchise Tax Board to conceal stolen funds in 2003 and 2004. Garrison under-reported and failed to report to the Franchise Tax Board monies he was paid by Dr. Hollander, Dr. Rito Castanon-Hill, United Management Group, Inc., and S.M.C. Group, Inc., violations of Revenue and Taxation code Section 19706, Tax Evasion.

All of the defendants are charged with Penal Code Section 550, Submission of False Insurance claims; Penal Code Section 487, Grand Theft; Welfare & Institutions Code Section 14107, submission of False Medi-Cal Claims: and Penal Code Section 186.10 (a) (1), Money Laundering.

Agencies involved in the investigation include the California Department of Justice Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, Los Angeles Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force, United States Office of Inspector General Health and Human Services, the Department of Health Services and Glendale Police Department. During the investigation, agents executed search warrants in Tujunga, Chatsworth, Glendale and the LAX area, seized 4 guns, and approximately $150,000 in cash.

Medi-Cal is a state managed program that pays for essential medical services, medical equipment, and medication for qualifying disabled, indigent and elderly California residents. It is funded by the state and federal governments and administered by the California Department of Health Services.

The Department of Justice Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse investigates and prosecutes those who file fraudulent claims for medical services, medical equipment and drugs.

During the 2005/2006 Fiscal Year, the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse recovered $267,854,037 in Medi-Cal fraud and $6,525,097 in criminal prosecutions.

Suspects charged include:

• Richard Melkonyan (DOB 12/11/1970) was arrested at his home in Glendale, California.
• Akop Melkonian (DOB 10/28/1972) was arrested at his home in Chatsworth, California.
• Lilit Baghdasaryan (DOB 06/12/1980) was arrested at her home in Tujunga, California.
• David James Garrison (DOB 06/16/1961) resides in Los Angeles, California, is currently at large.
• Neil Hollander, M.D. (DOB 07/28/1940) resides in Huntington Beach, California, has agreed to surrender to authorities next week.
• Rito Castanon-Hill, M.D. (DOB 08/19/1971) arrested at his home in Los Angeles, California.

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