SAN DIEGO – The CEO of several Southern California-based medical imaging companies was sentenced today to 60 months in federal prison for running a program that submitted more than $250 million in fraudulent claims through the system. California workers’ compensation for medical services obtained through kickbacks and bribes to doctors and others.
Sam Sarkis Solakyan, 40, of Glendale, was sentenced by US District Judge Cynthia A. Bashant. Judge Bashant also ordered him to pay $29,937,175 in restitution to the victims’ insurers. It also barred him from working in health care and workers’ compensation during his three-year supervised release once he completes his prison term.
In an eight-day trial that ended July 2, 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.
“[Solakyan] paid some $9 million in bribes to generate more than $250 million in fraudulent medical bills, the vast majority of which were for MRIs [magnetic resource images] which were…completely medically unnecessary,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “[Solakyan] devised, and through his bribes fueled, a cross-referral system that prompted [co-conspirators] to refer patients to physicians who prescribe too many ancillary services in exchange for money and other economic benefits.
Solakyan was the CEO of several medical imaging companies, including Glendale-based Vital Imaging Inc. and the San Diego MRI Institute. Solakyan operated diagnostic imaging facilities throughout California, including the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Orange Counties, and San Diego.
From mid-2013 until November 2016, Solakyan conspired with doctors and others to perpetrate a scheme in which doctors received bribes and bribes in exchange for the referring patients to workers’ compensation. The compensation offered to corrupt doctors was either in cash or by referring new patients under what is known as a ‘cross-referral’ system.
The conspirators masked the true nature of their financial dealings to conceal the bribes and bribes, including entering into various fictitious deals such as “marketing”, “administrative services” and ” planning,” when in fact the money Solakyan paid amounted to kickbacks and volume-based bribes for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in order to encourage physicians to refer and continue to refer patients to Solakyan companies.
Solakyan’s recruiters required doctors to refer a minimum number of patients to receive “cross-referrals,” and those referrals stopped if doctors didn’t meet the minimum quota. Solakyan paid more than $8.6 million in bribes disguised largely as bogus ‘scheduling’ fees in exchange for MRI referrals, payments that were concealed from patients and insurers -sickness.
In total, Solakyan has submitted and caused to be submitted more than $250 million in claims for medical services obtained through the payment of kickbacks and bribes.
The FBI and the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division, investigated the case.
Assistant United States Attorneys Adam P. Schleifer of the Major Fraud Section and Faraz R. Mohammadi of the Santa Ana Branch prosecuted the case.