On January 28, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Sam Sarkis Solakyan, 40, of Glendale, California, the CEO of several medical-imaging companies, including the Glendale-based Vital Imaging Inc. and San Diego MRI Institute, was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for running a scheme that submitted more than $250 million in fraudulent claims through the California Workers’ Compensation System for medical services procured through bribes and kickbacks to physicians and others. Solakyan was also ordered to pay $29,937,175 in restitution to the victim insurers and was banned from working in the health care and workers compensation industries for his three-year term of supervised release once he completes his prison sentence. Solakyan operated diagnostic imaging facilities throughout California, including the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Orange counties, and San Diego.
Following an eight-day trial that concluded on July 2, 2021, a jury found Solakyan guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud and health care fraud, and 11 counts of honest services mail fraud.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Solakyan conspired with physicians and others to perpetrate a scheme in which physicians were paid bribes and kickbacks in exchange for the referral of workers’ compensation patients. The compensation offered to the corrupt doctors consisted of either cash or referrals of new patients in what is known as a “cross-referral” scheme. Federal prosecutors alleged that the conspirators obscured the true nature of their financial relationships to conceal the bribes and kickbacks, including by entering into various sham agreements such as contracts for “marketing,” “administrative services,” and “scheduling,” when in fact the money Solakyan paid amounted to volume-based, per- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan bribes and kickbacks to induce physicians to refer and continue referring patients to Solakyan’s companies. Solakyan’s recruiters required physicians to refer a minimum number of patients to receive “cross-referrals,” and those referrals stopped if the physicians failed to meet the minimum quota. Solakyan paid more than $8.6 million in kickbacks disguised largely as sham “scheduling” fees in exchange for MRI referrals, payments which were concealed from patients and health insurers. In total, Solakyan submitted and caused to be submitted more than $250 million in claims for medical services procured through the payment of bribes and kickbacks. The scheme lasted from no later than mid-2013 to November 2016.
If you have information regarding false claims having been submitted to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, other federal health care programs, or to other federal agencies/programs, and the information is not publically known and no actions have been taken by the government with regard to recovering the false claims, you should promptly consult with a False Claims Act attorney (also known as qui tam attorneys) in your U.S. state who may investigate the basis of your False Claims Act allegations and who may also assist you in bringing a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the United States, if appropriate, for which you may be entitled to receive a portion of the recovery received by the U.S. government.
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