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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Breaking: Dozens of people from Armenian-American organised crime group arrested in New York and LA over major health insurance fraud

WOW. Just reported via @BreakingNews. I am, however, amused with the nickname of the detained "high-level organized crime figure from the former Soviet Union who allegedly gave protection to members of the group": "vor" (meaning "ass" - rude conversational in Armenian, or “thief"/"thief-in-law” - in Russian) - "The vor, Armen Kazarian, was based in Los Angeles."

*picture - Robert Terdjanian, by AP, via Voice of America / Armenian Service

Dozens Arrested in Medicare-Fraud Scheme

The Wall Street Journal

By MICHAEL ROTHFELD

An Armenian-American organized crime ring based in New York and Los Angeles allegedly bilked a federal health-care program for tens of millions of dollars using stolen doctor and patient identities, law-enforcement authorities said in indictments unsealed Wednesday.

Dozens of people were arrested including a "vor"—a high-level organized crime figure from the former Soviet Union who allegedly gave protection to members of the group. The vor, Armen Kazarian, was based in Los Angeles.

The group, known as the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian Organization, was taken down as part of a nationwide health-care fraud sweep that included arrests in Ohio, New Mexico and Georgia. In New York, prosecutors charged more than 40 people in schemes that allegedly fraudulently billed Medicare for more than $100 million and receiving $35.7 million in payments.

It was the latest in a string of Medicare fraud busts nationwide by the Department of Justice over the past three years. In July, authorities announced charges against 94 people in separate schemes, including one involving Russian immigrants in Brooklyn, that allegedly submitted $251 million in phony billings.

The Armenian group allegedly stole the identities of doctors and patients, including thousands from the Orange Regional Medical Center in upstate New York. The names were allegedly used to file reimbursement requests from Medicare for procedures that weren't performed at 118 nonexistent clinics in 25 states.

According to one of the indictments, some of the fraudulent Medicare billings were from a forensic pathologist, who normally does autopsies, supposedly for office visits; an ophthalmologist billing for bladder tests; an obstetrician billing for skin tests.

The charges filed Wednesday include allegations of racketeering, health-care fraud, identity theft, money laundering and bank fraud. Prosecutors said members of the Armenian group allegedly used threats of violence to collect money they were owed. One alleged leader of the group, Robert Terdjanian, allegedly threatened to "disembowel" someone who owed him money.

FBI agents arrested 20 people in New York early Wednesday and others were taken into custody around the country, said Richard Kolko, a spokesman for the agency's New York office. Lawyers for the defendants could not be immediately identified.

8 comments:

Ani said...

The New York Times story has a link to the indictment with all the names: http://nyti.ms/9SydQt

artmika said...

It says the group has "strong ties to Armenia". I wonder what will follow of this...

Here are few quotes from the NYT report:

"Prosecutors said the case represented the largest Medicare fraud operation ever carried out by a single group that resulted in criminal charges. The group succeeded in stealing $35 million in Medicare reimbursements, officials said, before the charges were leveled and arrests were made on Wednesday."

"Prosecutors said that Mr. Kazarian’s arrest signified the first time a Vor has been charged in the United States with racketeering crime, and the first time since 1996 that a known Vor has been arrested on any federal charge."

“The diabolical beauty of the Medicare fraud scheme — from the criminals’ standpoint — was that it was completely notional,” Ms. Fedarcyk [the assistant director in charge of the New York F.B.I. office] said in a statement released in the early afternoon. “There were no real medical clinics behind the fraudulent billings, just stolen doctors’ identities. There were no runners or colluding patients showing up at clinics for unneeded or “upcoded” treatments, just stolen patient identities. The whole doctor-patient interaction was a mirage.”

"The racketeering indictment charges 28 defendants, including Mr. Kazarian, with crimes tied to the operation of the Armenian-American organized crime group, which it identifies as the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian Organization, a nationwide criminal operation with strong ties to Armenia. The group’s leadership is based in New York and Los Angeles, but its operations extend throughout the United States and overseas."

Ani said...

Do you think there is a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for this? ;)

artmika said...

I expect we'll hear comments from the Armenian officials re alleged Armenian links of that group.

artmika said...

Do not know about Guinness Book, but wonder if there will be repercussions of this for the Armenian community in US in general...

artmika said...

Here's the TV report (video) from ny1.com:

Dozens Charged With International Medicare Scam

artmika said...

Interesting details on detained Armen Kazarian challenging his status as "thief-in-law” and first reactions form Armenian officials via RFE/RL:

Law-enforcement authorities in Armenia said on Friday that they have not yet been contacted by U.S. federal investigators in connection with the arrests of Armenian-born Americans accused of large-scale medical insurance fraud.

U.S. officials have said that Armenian nationals are among 44 members of an Armenian-American criminal syndicate that allegedly filed some $100 million in fake claims to a government health insurance program. They say some of the suspects regularly traveled to Armenia , had criminal connections there and transferred criminal proceeds to the country.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry on Thursday expressed “regret” at this fact and said the authorities in Yerevan are “ready to cooperate with their American colleagues in order to assist in the inquiry.”

Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General reaffirmed this pledge the next day. A spokeswoman for the law-enforcement agency, Sona Truzian, said it has so far received no inquiries or cooperation requests from U.S. prosecutors handling the case.

“The Office of the Prosecutor-General has not received any official information,” Truzian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We think that if need be, our American colleagues will approach us with a relevant inquiry or give us information.”

“We are ready to cooperate and assist them in solving the crime. Especially given that we have some experience of joint work on solving such crimes,” she said.

Armen Kazarian, an Armenian-born man, is identified as the principal ringleader in the alleged insurance scam. The lead prosecutor in the case, Preet Bharara, has referred to him as a “vor v zakone,” or a thief in law – a Russian term for powerful figures in the criminal underworld of the former Soviet Union.

Kazarian was known in Armenia as a crime figure nicknamed “Pzo.” According to the Armenian police, he had no formal criminal record in the country before emigrating to the United States in 1996. A police spokesman also told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the 46-year-old is now a U.S. citizen.

“Pzo has never had the status of a thief in law,” insisted Sergey Galoyan, a Yerevan-based author of several books on Soviet and post-Soviet organized crime.

“Pzo was a very minor figure in the underworld. He was a petty thief,” Galoyan told RFE/RL.

Anonymous said...

Lol I lived in Armenia and let me tell you pzo is the most powerfull thieve in law in Armenia and not only in armenia all around the world he really got known and even they put him as the 4th godfather so right now in armenia he is the most POWERFUL person he has everything money respect cars anything anyone can ever wish for!and the funny thing is sergey something is saying shit behind his back when sergey goes near pzo he gets stiff anyone can say shit they say shit about Obama but whn he comes near they kiss his ass!3 years ago I would see kazarian with his cars driving and everyone would be like freaked out and like they would be like dude it's him it's him and they would get stiff but I'm sure everyone of those people who got stiff talked shit but when he comes near they get scared!sorry for writing to much but I just wanna say that I hate it whn people start talking as soon as pzo is in America now whenever pzo was in armneia no had the risk to say stuff like that and now pzo is in America and no one here can say stuff like tht!!!people are kiss ass"