WASHINGTON— January 10 2012 – A Los Angeles woman who pleaded guilty to using fraudulent medical clinics and the stolen identities of physicians to defraud Medicare of more than $6.2 million was sentenced to 60 months in prison today, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.
Carolyn Ann Vasquez, 47, was also ordered to pay $6.2 million in restitution by U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall of the Central District of California. In addition, Judge Marshall ordered Vasquez to serve three years of supervised release following their prison term.
In March 2011, Vasquez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In her plea agreement, Vasquez admitted that from 2007 to 2008, she conspired with others to use a series of fraudulent Los Angeles-area medical clinics to defraud Medicare. Vasquez admitted that her co-conspirators used the identities and Medicare provider numbers of physicians who both worked and did not work at the clinics to submit false claims to Medicare for reimbursement for services the physicians did not perform and for power wheelchairs, medical equipment and diagnostic tests that the physicians did not order or prescribe. According to court documents, physician assistants recruited to work at the clinics by Vasquez, and working at her direction and the direction of others, performed services that were medically unnecessary and prescribed and ordered the wheelchairs, medical equipment and diagnostic tests that were medically unnecessary.
According to court documents, Vasquez obtained access to physicians’ personal and Medicare information, which she stole to further the fraud scheme at the medical clinics. Vasquez admitted that in approximately 2007, a physician contacted her about a job at one of the fraudulent medical clinics, but the physician decided not to accept the job. Nevertheless, Vasquez’s co-conspirators printed prescription pads with the physician’s name and Medicare provider number on them. Vasquez admitted that she instructed a physician assistant working at one of the fraudulent medical clinics to use the prescription pads to write fraudulent prescriptions and medical documentation for diagnostic tests, power wheelchairs and other medical equipment in the physician’s name even though Vasquez knew that the physician did not work at the clinic. Medicare was defrauded of approximately $6,268,899 as a result of her conduct.
Vasquez’s co-defendant, Eduard Aslanyan, who pleaded guilty in April 2011 to conspiracy charges related to this case, is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 6, 2012. A second co-defendant, David Garrison, a physician assistant who worked at the fraudulent medical clinics with Vasquez and Aslanyan, is scheduled for trial on Jan. 24, 2012.
Today’s sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. for the Central District of California; Tony Sidley, Assistant Chief of the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse; Special Agent in Charge Glenn R. Ferry of the Los Angeles Region for the HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG); and Assistant Director in Charge Steven Martinez of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jonathan T. Baum of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Former Special Trial Attorney Joseph Hudzik participated in the prosecution. The case is being investigated by the FBI.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,160 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.