BRUNSWICK – An undocumented Armenian will serve five years in prison for laundering money obtained in a massive Medicare fraud scheme that operated from phony clinics in Brunswick and other cities.
Just minutes after U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood imposed the sentence on Sahak Tumanyan, 44, an federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent served him with deportation papers in the courtroom.
She also ordered him to serve three years’ probation once he’s released and to pay nearly $309,000 restitution.
Woods covered the possible deportation in her sentence, ordering Tumanyan to stay out of the U.S. and any of its territories during his probation should he be deported.
Throughout the proceedings, Tumanyan held a phone to his ear listening to an Armenian interpreter in California. Speaking through the interpreter Tumanyan thanked Wood for the opportunity to speak and said, “Today, I have minor children waiting for me to get home.”
Just before he and his wife, Hasmik, were to go on trial in August, Tumanyan pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy in the scheme that operated out of Los Angeles where they lived. In exchange for his plea and assistance in prosecuting a case that stretches through phony clinics across the nation, the government dismissed charges against his wife and asked Wood to impose a more lenient sentence. She declined, saying the penalty called for in federal guidelines was appropriate for the crime and Tumanyan’s involvement.
His involvement was to take the money Medicare paid out for false claims and then pass it through several phony businesses in the Los Angeles area before withdrawing cash, keeping some and passing on the rest to principals in the scheme.
FBI Special Agent Tony Alig testified that $5,433,230 in claims were submitted through Brunswick Medical Supply Inc. for equipment that was never provided. It was nothing more than a shell company through which the conspirators used the stolen identities of Medicare beneficiaries to bill for walkers, canes and other equipment never delivered.
Medicare paid out about $1.5 million of the claims from Brunswick, Alig testified. The reimbursement checks were mailed to Los Angeles, where Tumanyan immediately passed the money through businesses that existed only to launder money, Alig testified.
Sahak and Hasmik Tumanyan set up at least seven accounts and used their home as a phony business address with a cellphone as the business phone, Alig said.
The government presented evidence that Tumanyan showed a level of sophistication although his lawyer, Dominic Cantalupo, characterized him as a dupe acting on the orders of others.
He said Tumanyan had always been hardworking and law abiding and had supported his wife and their two young children.
Should Tumanyan be deported, he would be separated from his wife, also undocumented, and their children, who are U.S. citizens, Cantalupo said.
At that Wood asked, “Is there a block to them doing what they contemplated doing sometime ago? Buying a one-way ticket to Armenia?”
The four tickets that Tumanyan bought but never used had come up as evidence. The government said he had planned to flee to Armenia with his family, which would have obstructed the investigation, but Cantalupo said otherwise.
His real intention was to take his children to Armenia where his family could care for them and then surrender at the U.S. embassy, Cantalupo said.
In sentencing Tumanyan, Wood noted he had made the right decision to stay and face the charges.
“Mr. Tumanyan, you almost made a grave mistake, but you turned back,” she said.
One of the masterminds of the scheme, Arthur Manasarian, also of Los Angeles, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is serving 14 years in prison and must repay $1.8 million.
Khoren Gasparian, 28, of Las Cruces, N.M., has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and health care fraud and is awaiting sentencing. He willingly returned from Russia to face the charges and assist in the investigation.
Share on Facebook