Woman receives sentence for role in healthcare scheme

A woman who ran a $20-million healthcare scheme out of a Glendale medical clinic was sentenced Monday to eight years in federal prison and ordered to pay back more than $9 million in restitution to Medicare and Medi-Cal.

Lianna “Lili” Ovsepian, 33, of Tujunga was given the sentence by U.S. District Judge S. James Sotero after pleading guilty last November to a first-of-a-kind scheme to defraud government healthcare programs and one of the largest scams of its kind in Southern California.

Last November, Ovsepian pleaded guilty to fraudulently prescribing expensive antipsychotic medications and selling those drugs back to pharmacies through the black market, where the medications would be repeatedly billed to the government, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

While acting as owner and manager of Manor Medical Imaging Inc., Ovsepian generated thousands of phony prescriptions for patients who were usually low-income beneficiaries of Medicare and Medi-Cal and did not need the drugs, the statement read.

Thousands of prescriptions were presigned by Dr. Kenneth Johnson, a co-conspirator, and filled out by Ovsepian’s mother-in-law, Nuritsa Grigoryan.

Those who were given prescriptions brought them to pharmacies where they were filled and returned to Manor. In exchange, the “patients” were given nominal payments of typically around $100, according to the statement.

The drugs were shipped into the black market, where they were sold to other pharmacies and rebilled to healthcare programs as though the drugs were being dispensed for the first time, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“As prosecutors argued at sentencing, the beneficiaries included veterans recruited from dual-diagnosis programs for drug addiction and schizophrenia, elderly Medicare beneficiaries whose identities were stolen and homeless beneficiaries recruited from skid row,” according to the statement.

Ovsepian’s scam ran from September 2009 through Oct. 27, 2011, during which time Medi-Cal and Medicare were billed more than $20 million and the programs paid more than $9.1 million to pharmacies based on the more than 14,000 claims submitted as part of the scheme, according to prosecutors.

After their respective trials, Johnson, Grigoryan and Ovsepian’s brother, Artak Ovsepian, were found guilty on a series of charges and are awaiting sentencing.

Sixteen defendants, several of whom are Ovsepian’s relatives, have been convicted either through guilty pleas or by jury verdicts.

The investigation into the case was called “Operation Psyched Out” and entailed many entities working collaboratively, such as the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

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