A doctor, a woman who posed as a doctor, and the manager of operations at Manor Medical Imaging were found guilty of federal fraud charges as part of an organized scheme to repeatedly bill Medicare and Medi-Cal for thousands of prescriptions, including expensive anti-psychotic treatments.

One of the largest Medicare fraud cases to be heard, the conspiracy was in essence a “prescription harvesting scheme,” reports a DOJ press release on the occasion of their conviction. Manor Medical employees created thousands of fake prescriptions for identify theft victims – such as elderly patients, military veterans they found in rehab programs and homeless people. Patient files were created or doctored to make it appear that the medications were meant for the patients cited in the prescriptions. Once the prescriptions were filled and paid for by Medicare and Medi-Cal, the drugs were sold on the black market and then resold into legitimate pharmacies. At that point the drugs were used for new claims made to Medicare and Medi-Cal as if they were freshly-filled prescriptions, according to the FDA press release on the occasion of their indictment.

The doctor in the case, Dr. Kenneth Johnson, acted as the public face of Manor Medical Imaging, according to the DOJ. He pre-signed thousands of blank prescriptions that were then used to fill on behalf of unsuspecting fraud victims. Nuritsa Grigoryan pretended to be a licensed American doctor, but was in fact only licensed to practice in Armenia. Her job was to meet with homeless “patients” and fill out the pre-signed prescriptions. Artak Ovsepian was a prime mover in the drug diversion conspiracy, and it was he who oversaw procurement of drugs from local pharmacies, says the DOJ.

The presiding judge, United States District Judge S. James Otero said of the crimes these three committed, “The scope of the fraud was breathtaking…(they) preyed upon the poor (and) used them as pawns.”

John Roth, Director, FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations had this to say about the case. “This scheme to defraud federal and state governments endangered the public’s health by putting adulterated medicines onto the U.S. market,” he said. “We will continue to bring to justice those who put profits above health and safety.”

All three defendants face a minimum of 2 years in prison, but Johnson and Grigoryan could be sentenced to up to 30 years in jail, and Ovsepian faces a possible 35 year sentence, reports the DOJ.

All told, 18 people have been arraigned and 16 convicted in the Manor Medical Imaging conspiracy, according to the DOJ.

By S. Imber