(John Moore: Getty Images)
(John Moore: Getty Images)

Medicare fraud is big business–perhaps as much as $50 billion each year, according to the FBI. One classic scam involves recruiting patients to come to a clinic, then using the patient’s billing information to fraudulently charge for services never rendered or charging for expensive wheelchairs.

It’s an all-too-common story, but keep reading, because this scam has a twist. Two Los Angeles fraudsters, Eduard Aslanyan and Carolyn Vasquez, not only fraudulently used patient information, but also stole the identities of doctors themselves.

Here’s how: Aslanyan and Vasquez set up a series of fraudulent medical clinics and recruited doctors to serve as medical directors. Some doctors apparently just came by for an interview, but never worked at the clinic. No matter. Aslanyan and Vasquez stole their identities and had physician assistants use the doctors’ information to commit fraud. Aslanyan and Vasquez submitted more than $18.9 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare. That is a lot of health care.

The FBI nabbed them. Vasquez pled guilty and was sentenced earlier this year to 60 months in prison and must pay $6.2 million in restitution. Aslanyan was sentenced earlier this week to 77 months in prison. He’s on the hook for $10.8 million in restitution. From the press release announcing Aslanyan’s conviction:

According to court documents, Aslanyan hired patient recruiters to find Medicare beneficiaries who were willing to provide the recruiters with their Medicare billing information in exchange for expensive, high-end power wheelchairs and other medical equipment which the patient recruiters told the beneficiaries they could receive for free. Often, the Medicare beneficiaries did not have a legitimate medical need for the power wheelchairs and equipment. The patient recruiters then provided the beneficiaries’ Medicare billing information to Aslanyan or brought the beneficiaries to Aslanyan’s clinics. Aslanyan paid the patient recruiters cash kickbacks in exchange for recruiting the Medicare beneficiaries.

In court documents, Aslanyan admitted that he and Vasquez instructed and paid physician assistants who worked at his clinics to prescribe medically unnecessary power wheelchairs, medical equipment and diagnostic tests for the Medicare beneficiaries. The physician assistants used stolen identities of physicians who did not supervise them or work at the clinics.”

We wanted to talk to one of the doctors whose identity was stolen, but the FBI has not been able to connect us as yet.

Medicare Fraud with a Twist 9 February,2012Lisa Aliferis


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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