COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - A California man was sentenced to prison for establishing a "ghost" medical clinic in South Carolina and committing Medicare fraud, according to a U.S. attorney.
Karo Gotti Blkhoyan, 34, was a fugitive for approximately two years, when he was arrested at the San Francisco International Airport attempting to re-enter the country, according to Bill Nettles, U.S. attorney.
Blkhoyan was placed on the most wanted list by the United States Department of Health and Human Servicies Office of Inspector General.
According to a news release issued by Nettles:
Evidence presented established that the conspiracy was a transnational criminal organization that established a "ghost" medical clinic in South Carolina using stolen information from a South Carolina doctor.
Members of the conspiracy enrolled the clinic in Medicare, established bank accounts, linked the bank accounts to a fictitious address which was a mailbox store, registered the clinic with the South Carolina Secretary of State, and began to bill Medicare.
Altogether, the "ghost" clinic billed Medicare over 1.1 million dollars, with Medicare paying approximately $350,000 worth of claims.
The money that was paid was laundered through Southern Californian banks and shell businesses by members of the conspiracy.
During the sentencing hearing, Blkhoyan challenged his role in the conspiracy; however, the Court found that the defendant was a manager/supervisor of the conspiracy which increased his sentencing guidelines.
Two other members of the conspiracy have previously pleaded guilty to laundering money. Four members of the conspiracy are currently international fugitives.
""When the rich take things that don't belong to them they want us to call it fraud. But let's be clear, it is stealing, it is wrong and against the law. He stole from all of us. We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who steal from us. Let there be no doubt about that," Nettles said.
"Healthcare fraud is undoubtedly a lucrative business, but the business of IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners, is to pursue criminals such as Karo Blkhoyan, and bring them to justice, no matter where they may attempt to hide." said Thomas J. Holloman, III, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation.
"Blkhoyan's sentence is a warning to others that would defraud Medicare and steal from the programs that provide assistance for individuals in need. We will investigate every dollar, every fraudulent claim, and when you are found, you will go to prison."
The case was investigated by agents of the HHS OIG, IRS CID and FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Jim May of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.