A federal judge sentenced Sam Sarkis Solakyan, 40, the CEO of several Southern California-based medical imaging companies, 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. The judge also ordered him to pay back $29,937,175.
Solakyan paid about $9 million in kickbacks to generate over $250 million in fraudulent medical billings, most which were for unnecessary MRIs [magnetic resource images]. Solakyan devised, and through his kickbacks fueled, a cross-referral scheme that incentivized [co-conspirators] to herd patients to physicians who overprescribed ancillary services in exchange for cash and other economic benefits. Solakyan was the CEO of several medical-imaging companies, including the Glendale-based Vital Imaging Inc., and 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 to November 2016, Solakyan worked with doctors and other to pay doctors bribes and kickbacks for the referral of workers' compensation patients. The compensation offered to doctors consisted of either cash or referrals of new patients in what is known as a “cross-referral” scheme.
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.