Sacramento home health care owner gets prison for Medicare fraud

Law enforcement announced a 51-year-old Los Angeles County resident is ordered to pay back $5 million for conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The US Attorney’s Office recently announced 51-year-old Akop Atoyan was sentenced to 25 months in prison for conspiracy to commit health care fraud — crimes tied to Sacramento health care and hospice agencies.

According to an investigation by the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, Atoyan and his wife Liana Karapetyan owned agencies in the Sacramento area that included:

  • ANG Health Care Inc.
  • Excel Home Healthcare Inc.
  • Excel Hospice Inc.

On behalf of the agencies, Atoyan and Karapetyan certified to Medicare that they would not pay kickbacks in exchange for Medicare beneficiary referrals to the agencies.

But law enforcement alleged the couple, and other individuals, took pay kickbacks between at least July 2015 through April 2019. According to the US Attorney’s Office, these individuals included:

  • John Eby, registered nurse who worked for a hospital in Sacramento
  • Anita Vijay, director of social services at a skilled nursing and assisted living facility in Sacramento
  • Jai Vijay, husband of Anita Vijay
  • Mariela Panganiban, director of social services at a skilled nursing facility in Roseville

Atoyan, Karapetyan and their associates caused the agencies to submit more than 8,000 claims to Medicare for the cost of home health care and hospice services.

Based on those claims, Medicare paid the agencies approximately $31 million.

Of that amount, Medicare paid the agencies at least $2.5 million for services purportedly provided to beneficiaries referred in exchange for kickbacks paid to, among others, Eby, Anita Vijay, Jai Vijay, and Panganiban.

“Because the agencies obtained the beneficiary referrals by paying kickbacks, the agencies should not have received any Medicare reimbursement,” said a spokesperson from the Eastern District of California.

Atoyan was ordered to pay $2,525,363 in restitution to the Department of Health and Human Services and to forfeit that same amount to the United States.

In separate cases, Eby and Panganiban plead guilty for their role in the schemes and are awaiting sentencing.

On Jan. 20, 2022, Anita Vijay was sentenced to one month in prison, and Jai Vijay was sentenced to two years’ probation.

On July 21, 2022, Karapetyan was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

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