Texas clinic operators plead guilty to Medicare fraud

Doctors face June trial for authorizing $3.3 million for fake tests

By Gabrielle Banks
Updated 7:24 pm, Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Two men who operated three clinics in Houston pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to orchestrating a Medicare fraud scheme that collected $3.3 million in government funds.

They agreed they hired patients to claim they had fictional symptoms and the government was billed for tests that never happened or were not medically necessary.

"You're pleading guilty to lying, cheating and stealing?" U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes asked the men, when it appeared they were backpedaling on their pleas. They told Hughes they were ready to move forward.

Zaven "Mike" Pogosayan, 37, flew in from his home in Glendale, Calif. to enter a guilty plea on all 43 federal counts he was facing. His colleague, Edvard Shakhbazyan, 40, who also traveled in from Glendale, pleaded guilty to the same 43 counts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Albert A. Balboni clarified to the judge that neither man got a plea deal.

The men are both from Armenia. Pogosayan is a U.S. citizen and Shakhbazyan has residency status. Both remain free on bond pending a July 25 sentencing date.

According to the indictment, the two men admitted they set up three clinics at 2112 Pease St., 2110 Jefferson and in a suite at 6892 Southwest Freeway where nursing home patients were recruited to come in and complain of particular symptoms that could trigger a request for an anorectal manometry test, which is used to evaluate fecal incontinence or constipation. Some patients visited multiple clinics, where they were instructed to check off a box indicating they were new patients.

The prosecution contends the clinics billed Medicare for $5.6 million and collected $3.3 million in payouts.

Three doctors and another clinic employee face a jury trial June 14 for conspiring and participating in the Medicare scheme.

Two co-defendants reached plea deals with prosecutors. Frank "Bones" Montgomery took a plea agreement in February 2014, telling the judge he was guilty of conspiring to take kickbacks for recruiting the patients.

And Seryan "Sam" Mirzakhanyan, accepted a plea deal in July 2014 agreeing he was guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and aiding and abetting to make monetary transactions related to the scam.

Both will be sentenced Oct. 11.