A Medical Device Daily

A California man pleaded guilty last week to federal criminal charges of defrauding Medicare by using patients' Medicare identification numbers without their knowledge, according to Matthew Friedrich, acting assistant attorney general of the criminal division and Thomas O'Brien, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California.

Between August 2003 and April 2008, Melkon Gabriyelyan, 51, billed the Medicare program for more than $1,640,000.

Gabriyelyan pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of health care fraud before U.S. District Judge Manuel Real in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 12. At sentencing, Gabriyelyan faces up to 12 years in prison for his crimes.

According to the plea agreement, Gabriyelyan admitted owning and operating TA Medical Supply (Los Angeles), a durable medical equipment (DME) company. In his plea agreement, Gabriyelyan acknowledged that beginning in January 2004 he fraudulently billed Medicare for DME purportedly supplied to Medicare beneficiaries. He submitted false claims to Medicare for orthotic braces, power wheelchairs and other DME that were not delivered to Medicare beneficiaries, were not prescribed by the physicians listed on the claims that he made or were not medically necessary.

Gabriyelyan also acknowledged in the plea agreement that to accomplish the fraud he knowingly and willfully stole the identity of a Medicare beneficiary for the purpose of submitting false claims. He admitted billing a back brace and two knee braces that the beneficiary did not need or receive, and that the patient had no knowledge of. In addition, Gabriyelyan admitted that he created a patient file for this beneficiary that contained a delivery slip with the beneficiary's forged signature.

"Medical identity theft is a growing problem that poses significant harm to both the Medicare program and the patients whose personal information is stolen," Friedrich said. "The Department will continue fighting to protect the rights of Medicare patients as well as prosecuting individuals who defraud the Medicare program."

Gabriyelyan was arrested in May following an investigation by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force (MFSF), a multi-agency team of federal, state and local prosecutors and agents designed to combat Medicare fraud. Strike force operations began in the Los Angeles area on March 1.

"Medical identity theft is a striking example of the kind of fraud we are combating in the Los Angeles area. One new weapon in our arsenal is our Strike Force operations, which seek not only to protect American taxpayers from Medicare fraud, but protect the private and personal information of all patients," O'Brien said.