Five defendants allegedly operated sham companies & laundered money to purchase real estate & vehicles

LOS ANGELES—Five individuals were arrested in Los Angeles on criminal charges related to their roles in a years-long scheme to defraud Medicare of more than $15 million through sham hospice companies and then to launder the fraud proceeds.

According to an indictment unsealed, three of the defendants—Petros Fichidzhyan, 43, of Granada Hills, California, Juan Carlos Esparza, 32, of Valley Village, California, and Karpis Srapyan, 34, of Van Nuys, California—allegedly operated a series of sham hospice companies that were purportedly owned by foreign nationals but were in fact owned by the three defendants. The defendants allegedly used the foreign nationals’ identifying information to open bank accounts, to sign property leases, and, by Fichidzhyan, to make phone calls to Medicare and submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for hospice services. In submitting the false claims, the defendants misappropriated the identifying information of doctors, claiming to Medicare that the doctors had determined hospice services were necessary, when in fact the purported recipients of these hospice services were not terminally ill and had never requested nor received care from the sham hospices. In some instances, the defendants falsely claimed that the same beneficiary received services from multiple sham hospices.

Fichidzhyan, Esparza and Srapyan, together with defendants Susanna Harutyunyan, 38, and Mihran Panosyan, 45, both of Winnetka, California, then allegedly laundered the proceeds fraudulently obtained from Medicare. The defendants are alleged to have spent the money on real estate and vehicles, among other things.

Fichidzhyan, Esparza and Srapyan are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and aggravated identity theft. Fichidzhyan and Esparza are also charged with health care fraud. All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to launder money and money laundering. Fichidzhyan is further charged with making false statements. If convicted, all five defendants face a maximum penalty of at least 40 years in prison. Fichidzhyan, Esparza and Srapyan face an additional mandatory minimum of two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft count.

The charges announced are the most recent in the Justice Department’s ongoing effort to combat hospice fraud in the greater Los Angeles area.

The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s efforts to combat health care fraud through the Health Care Fraud Strike Force Program. Since March 2007, this program, currently comprised of nine strike forces operating in 27 federal districts, has charged more than 5,400 defendants who collectively have billed federal health care programs and private insurers more than $27 billion. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to hold providers accountable for their involvement in health care fraud schemes. More information can be found at

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.