Three Real Estate Investors Indicted for Bid Rigging in Florida Online Foreclosure Auctions

Friday, November 3, 2017

A federal grand jury in West Palm Beach returned an indictment yesterday against three high-volume Florida real estate investors for conspiring to rig bids submitted through the online property foreclosure auction process, the Department of Justice announced.

The indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, charges Avi Stern, Christopher Graeve, and Stuart Hankin with conspiring to rig bids during online auctions in Palm Beach County, Florida in order to obtain foreclosed properties at suppressed prices.  The indictment alleges that the conduct took place from at least January 2012 until June 2015.

These are the first indictments related to bid rigging in foreclosure auctions filed in Florida by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  The Antitrust Division previously has prosecuted similar bid rigging conduct in Alabama, California, Georgia and North Carolina, resulting in more than 100 guilty pleas and convictions in those states.

“These charges demonstrate that the Antitrust Division will uncover and prosecute collusion by real estate investors, regardless of whether their conduct is carried out in person, or in texts, online chats or through other electronic means,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Division will continue to work closely with our law enforcement colleagues to prosecute those responsible for taking money that would otherwise have gone to mortgage holders, Palm Beach County, and in some cases, to the owners of foreclosed homes.”

“Real estate investors who think they can swindle the system to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains beware,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan of the FBI Miami’s Field Office. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will vigorously investigate such schemes.”

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

These charges have been filed as a result of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section and the FBI’s Miami Division – West Palm Beach Resident Agency.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Washington Criminal I Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-307-6694 or www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.

Roofing Company Owner and Former Facilities Manager at Sierra Army Depot Indicted for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States

Friday, October 20, 2017

Government Seeks Forfeiture of Proceeds Resulting From Conspiracy

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of California returned an indictment yesterday against two individuals for allegedly conspiring to defraud the United States, the Department of Justice announced.

The indictment alleges that Kenneth Keyes, a former facility manager at Sierra Army Depot (SIAD), and Leroy Weber, the owner of a roofing company, participated in a conspiracy to defraud the United States from as early as February 2012, and continuing through at least July 23, 2013, by obstructing the lawful functions of the United States Army through deceitful or dishonest means.

“Yesterday’s indictment demonstrates the Antitrust Division’s commitment to pursuing individuals who seek to enrich themselves by misusing federal programs at the expense of taxpayers,” said Assistant Attorney Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

SIAD is a United States Army facility located in Northern California.  In 2012, SIAD earmarked $40 million for construction and renovation projects at its site using contractors who qualified under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Development Program.  The program provides assistance and benefits to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

The indictment alleges that Keyes, Weber, and other unidentified co-conspirators:

  • Recruited eligible 8(a) contractors to work as primary contractors at SIAD;
  • Represented to those contractors that Weber controlled the work and allocation of SIAD contract awards;
  • Caused prime contracts to be assigned to selected 8(a) contractors;
  • Used proprietary government pricing information to inflate contract prices for the SIAD contracts;
  • Required selected 8(a) contractors to award work to companies owned or controlled by Weber; and
  • Required a contractor to pay Weber in exchange for being awarded certain subcontracts by 8(a) contractors.

The indictment also alleges that Weber caused a company under his control to issue weekly paychecks to a relative of Keyes, and himself caused $10,000 to be paid directly to Keyes.

The purpose of this conspiracy was to enable Keyes and Weber to unjustly enrich themselves and their family members by diverting government funds intended to rebuild and repair the SIAD Army facility to themselves and their companies.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Weber and Keyes each face a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The charges are the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation handled by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office with assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General.  Anyone with information concerning the conspiracy should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300.

Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging in Northern California Public Foreclosure Auctions

Friday, October 6, 2017

Investigations Have Yielded 63 Plea Agreements to Date

A real estate investor pleaded guilty for his role in a conspiracy to rig bids at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Jim Appenrodt pleaded guilty to two counts of bid rigging in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. Appenrodt was charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on October 22, 2014.

According to court documents, Appenrodt participated in a conspiracy to rig bids by agreeing to refrain from bidding against other coconspirators at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco County and San Mateo County from as early as August 2008 until January 2011.

“The Antitrust Division has prosecuted scores of real estate investors who, for their own benefit and profit, conspired to corrupt the bidding process at foreclosure auctions,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Division’s continued commitment to bringing to justice the individuals who committed these crimes.”

Today’s guilty plea is the result of the Department’s ongoing investigation into bid rigging at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda counties, California. To date, 63 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty.

These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to real-estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300 or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Real Estate Investor Sentenced to 14 Months in Prison for Rigging Bids at Northern California Public Foreclosure Auctions

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A real estate investor was sentenced today for his role in a conspiracy to rig bids at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Brian McKinzie was charged on June 30, 2011, in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California. McKinzie pleaded guilty on Oct. 26, 2016, to two counts of bid rigging at real-estate foreclosure auctions in Alameda and Contra Costa County. Today, McKinzie was sentenced to serve 14 months in prison and to serve three years of supervised release. In addition to his term of imprisonment, McKinzie was ordered to pay a criminal fine of $10,000 and $652,824.43 in restitution.

“Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of offenses that subvert the competitive process,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “The Division remains firm in its resolve to seek prison terms for individuals who commit antitrust crimes.”  

Between November 2008 and January 2011, McKinzie and other bidders at the auctions conspired not to bid against one another for selected properties, instead designating a winning bidder to win the property at the auction. The members of the conspiracy then held second, private auctions, known as “rounds,” to award the properties to members of the conspiracy and determine payoffs for other conspirators who had agreed not to bid against each other at the public auctions. The private auctions often took place at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held.

When real estate properties are sold at public auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with the remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.

The sentence is a result of the division’s ongoing investigation into bid rigging at public real estate foreclosure auctions in California’s San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.

Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300 or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

California Internet Sales Company President Sentenced to Prison for Embezzlement and False Tax Returns

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Manhattan Beach, California resident was sentenced to nine months in prison for wire fraud and filing false tax returns, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson for the Southern District of California.

According to the evidence presented at trial, James Miller, a California attorney, was the president and managing partner of MWRC Internet Sales LLC, an online sales company. As part of his duties, Miller had check signing authority for the company’s business bank account. From January 2009 through October 2012, Miller wrote unauthorized checks to himself from MWRC’s account, embezzling more than $300,000. Miller used this money to pay for personal expenses and did not report it on his individual tax returns for 2009 through 2012, causing a tax loss of approximately $58,000.

In addition to the term of prison imposed, U.S. District Judge George Wu ordered Miller to serve two years of supervised release and to pay $64,329 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and Acting U.S. Attorney Robinson commended special agents of FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Kanter and Trial Attorney Benjamin Weir of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.

California Resident Sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Healthcare Fraud

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Acting U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that SUNYUP KIM, age 41, of Granada Hills, CA, was sentenced today after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon sentenced KIM to 1 year and 1 day in prison along with $93,927 in restitution.

On June 11, 2015, KIM was indicted along with three other defendants in an 8-count indictment charging approximately $38 million in Medicare fraud.

According to court documents, the $38 million fraud scheme centering on the distribution of “talking glucose meters” that were not medically necessary and were often not even requested. KIM, along with the other 3 defendants, operated Care Concepts, LLC, which was based in Metairie, and Choice Home Medical Equipment and Supplies (Choice), which was based in Chatsworth, California. KIM and the other 3 defendants, paid kickbacks to workers at call centers in California and South Carolina, from which operators would cold-call Medicare recipients to convince them to accept talking glucose meters and related supplies. From 2007 through 2015, KIM and the other 3 defendants caused thousands of claims to be submitted to Medicare through Care Concepts and Choice, virtually all of which were fraudulent.

Acting U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in investigating this matter. Assistant U. S. Attorneys Patrice Harris Sullivan and Jordan Ginsberg were in charge of the prosecution.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $13.4 Million Settlement Of Civil Healthcare Fraud Lawsuit Against US Bioservices Corp.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General for the New York Region (“HHS-OIG”), announced that the United States has settled a civil fraud case against US BIOSERVICES CORP. (“US BIO”) pursuant to which US BIO will pay a total of $13.4 million. The settlement resolves claims that US BIO violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act by participating in a kickback scheme with Novartis PharmaceuticalS Corp. (“Novartis”) relating to the NOVARTIS drug Exjade. Specifically, the United States’ Complaint alleges that US BIO and NOVARTIS entered into a kickback arrangement pursuant to which US BIO was promised additional patient referrals and related benefits in return for refilling a higher percentage of Exjade than the two other pharmacies that also dispensed Exjade. The settlement will also resolve numerous state law civil fraud claims.

Yesterday, Chief U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon approved a settlement stipulation to resolve the Government’s claims against US BIO. Under the settlement, US BIO is required to pay approximately $10.6 million to the United States and has made extensive admissions regarding its conduct. Further, as part of the settlement, US BIO will pay approximately $2.8 million to resolve the state law civil fraud claims. In prior lawsuits, the Government sued NOVARTIS and the two other pharmacies that participated in this same Exjade kickback scheme. The Government settled those lawsuits, pursuant to which NOVARTIS paid $390 million, the two other pharmacies paid $75 million, and NOVARTIS and the pharmacies made extensive admissions regarding their conduct.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “The integrity of the federal healthcare system requires that all providers, including pharmacies like US Bioservices, refrain from entering into kickback relationships. When healthcare providers accept kickbacks, they violate the law, subject what should be health-based decision-making to the influence of profit-seeking drug manufacturers, and thereby put their own financial interests ahead of the interests of their patients. This Office will continue to use its law enforcement tools to pursue healthcare providers who accept kickbacks or otherwise put their profits ahead of patient safety.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “The conduct displayed by US Bioservices compromised patient care and undermined the integrity of our nation’s health care programs. This settlement should serve as a warning to all providers that choose to let financial inducements cloud their medical judgment.”

As alleged in the Government’s Complaint, US BIO participated in a kickback scheme with NOVARTIS that violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act. In connection with this scheme, US BIO submitted claims for thousands of Exjade prescriptions to Medicare and Medicaid, causing those programs to pay out millions of dollars for false claims tainted by kickbacks. As part of the settlement, US BIO admitted as follows:

  • In December 2005, US BIO signed a contract with Novartis relating to the distribution of Exjade. Under that contract, Novartis agreed that US BIO would be one of three specialty pharmacies (the “EPASS pharmacies”) permitted to dispense Exjade as part of Novartis’s EPASS network. US BIO, in turn, agreed to provide specialty pharmacy services to Exjade patients, including having clinical staff available to speak with patients and to answer clinical questions or concerns about Exjade.
  • In or about June 2007, Novartis began issuing monthly “Exjade Scorecards” to US BIO and the other two EPASS pharmacies that measured, among other things, the pharmacies’ “adherence” scores. The “adherence” score in the Exjade Scorecards showed how long Exjade patients continued to order refills, without excluding patients who stopped ordering refills due to side effects or patients who were directed to stop therapy by their physicians. Starting in or about July 2007, Novartis had discussions with US BIO regarding how US BIO could improve its “adherence” scores in the Exjade Scorecards.
  • In late 2007 and early 2008, and to improve its “adherence” score, US BIO trained its nurses to call Exjade patients and tell patients that not treating iron overload, for which Exjade is prescribed, could have severe consequences like organ failure, and that while Exjade had certain common side effects like diarrhea, such side effects typically went away with time. The nurses at US BIO did not use written scripts for the calls with Exjade patients.
  • In October 2008, Novartis implemented a new plan for allocating Exjade patient referrals among US BIO and the other EPASS pharmacies. Under that plan, Novartis would allocate 60% of all undesignated patient referrals to the EPASS pharmacy with the top “adherence” scores in the Exjade Scorecards and allocate 20% of the undesignated patient referrals to each of the other two EPASS pharmacies.

* * *

Mr. Kim thanked HHS-OIG and the Medicaid Fraud Control Units for New York, Washington, and California for their investigative efforts and assistance with this case.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Li Yu and Mónica P. Folch are in charge of the case.

Former Medical Doctor And Business Partner Indicted For $7.1 Million Medicare Health Care Fraud Scheme

Monday, August 14, 2017

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Two Californians, a former medical doctor and his business partner, who were indicted on July 5, 2017 for a $7.1 million Medicare health care fraud scheme that occurred at three Las Vegas hospices, made their initial appearances in federal court today, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre for the District of Nevada.

Camilo Q. Primero, 74, of San Dimas, Calif., and Aurora S. Beltran, 61, of Glendora, Calif., are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; one count of health care fraud; one count of fraudulent concealment involving a federal health care program; three counts of false statements relating to a health benefit program; and thirteen counts of money laundering. The defendants face a criminal forfeiture money judgment in the amount of at least $7,083,130.

According to the indictment, from about Jan. 1, 2012 to about July 5, 2017, Primero, a former medical doctor and owner of Angel Eye Hospice, Vision Home Health Care, and Advent Hospice, all in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Beltran, Primero’s business partner, allegedly operated a scheme to fraudulently obtain $7.1 million from the federal Medicare program. They allegedly filed false enrollment documents with Medicare to enable Primero to operate hospice and home care agencies through nominees. Furthermore, they allegedly submitted hospice care claims for people who were not terminally ill and did not require hospice care.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-OIG, with assistance from IRS-Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Burns.

For prevention tips and information about Medicare fraud, visit www.medicare.gov.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Operators of Bogus Medical Clinics Charged in Conspiracy to Divert Massive Amounts of Prescription Narcotics to the Black Market

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Glendale Defense Attorney and Others Involved in Scheme Allegedly Obstructed Justice by Creating Fake Medical Records to Justify Fraudulent Prescriptions

LOS ANGELES – The operators of seven sham medical clinics were among 12 defendants taken into custody this morning on federal drug trafficking charges that allege they diverted at least 2 million prescription pills – including oxycodone and other addictive and dangerous narcotics – to the black market.

Two indictments returned late last month by a federal grand jury alleges that members of the conspiracy profited from illicit prescriptions that were issued without any legitimate medical purpose through a series of clinics that periodically opened and closed in a “nomadic” style. The fraudulent prescriptions allegedly allowed the conspirators to obtain bulk quantities of prescription drugs that were sold on the street.

Those arrested this morning include Minas Matosyan, an Encino man also known as “Maserati Mike,” who is charged with leading the scheme and controlling six of the sham clinics. Matosyan allegedly hired corrupt doctors who allowed the conspirators to issue fraudulent prescriptions under their names in exchange for kickbacks.

“The two indictments charge 14 defendants who allegedly participated in an elaborate scheme they mistakenly hoped would conceal a high-volume drug trafficking operation,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “In addition to generating illicit profits, this scheme helped drive the prescription drug epidemic that is causing so much harm across our nation.”

“This investigation targeted a financially motivated racket that diverted deadly and addictive prescription painkillers to the black market,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge David Downing. “Today’s arrests underscore our resolve – DEA and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate criminal enterprises that fuel and exploit the opioid epidemic.”

The indictments unsealed today and search warrants executed this morning describe how Matosyan would “rent out recruited doctors to sham clinics.” Matosyan allegedly supplied corrupt doctors in exchange for kickbacks derived from proceeds generated when the other sham clinics created fraudulent prescriptions or submitted fraudulent bills to health care programs. In one example described in the court documents, Matosyan provided a corrupt doctor to a clinic owner in exchange for $120,000. When the clinic failed to pay the money and suggested instead that Matosyan “take back” the corrupt doctor, Matosyan demanded his money and said, “Doctors are like underwear to me. I don’t take back used things.”

In a recorded conversation described in court documents, Matosyan discussed how one doctor was paid “for sitting at home,” while thousands of narcotic pills were prescribed in that doctor’s name and Medicare was billed more than $500,000 for purported patient care.

The conspirators also allegedly stole the identities of doctors who refused to participate in the scheme. In an intercepted telephone conversation described in court documents, Matosyan offered a doctor a deal to “sit home making $20,000 a month doing nothing.” When the doctor refused the offer, the conspirators nevertheless created prescription pads in the doctor’s name and allegedly began selling fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone without the doctor’s knowledge or consent.

According to court documents, the conspirators also issued prescriptions and submitted fraudulent billings in the name of a doctor who at the time was hospitalized and later died.

“The defendants in this scheme heartlessly lined their pockets with cash from the sale of thousands of addictive prescription drugs sold through the black market,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation’s Special Agent in Charge, R. Damon Rowe. “IRS Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to profit from the sale and distribution of illegitimate prescription narcotics creating a drug crisis of epic portions in our country.”

“For the sake of mere profit, the operators of these medical clinics spewed deadly prescription drugs onto our streets. The opioid epidemic gripping this country is well documented and our communities in the Los Angeles area have been impacted,” said Christian J. Schrank, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Too often those ill-gotten gains came at the expense of innocent Americans. It has been a pleasure working with our law enforcement colleagues to bring these people to justice.”

“Today’s enforcement actions, and the long-term multiagency investigation that preceded them, have dealt a major blow to a sophisticated healthcare fraud and identity theft scheme that posed a double threat. Not only did the defendants in this case use physicians’ names to write fraudulent prescriptions and fleece Medicare out of millions of dollars, but they’re also accused of funneling large quantities of dangerous prescription opiates, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, into the community,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, HSI will continue to aggressively target those who compromise the integrity of our healthcare system and public safety to satisfy their own greed.”

The indictment also charges Matosyan and others – including Glendale-based criminal defense attorney Fred Minassian – with obstruction of justice for allegedly creating fraudulent medical records in an effort to deter the investigation.

After a load of Vicodin was seized from one of the conspiracy’s major customers, Matosyan allegedly oversaw the creation of fake medical paperwork in an effort to make it appear the drugs had been legitimately prescribed. The indictment describes intercepted conversations in which Minassian strategized on how to deceive law enforcement, which included a plan to bribe a doctor to lie to authorities.

The 12 defendants arrested this morning are:

  • Minas Matosyan, 36, of Encino, who is accused of leading the scheme by recruiting corrupt doctors, overseeing the theft of other doctors’ identities, and negotiating the sale of fraudulent prescriptions and narcotic pills;
  • Armen Simonyan, 52, of Burbank, who allegedly managed the operations at some of the fraudulent clinics;
  • Grisha Sayadyan, 66, of Burbank, who allegedly managed the operations at various clinics and sold oxycodone and Vicodin pills directly to black market customers;
  • Sabrina Guberman, 45, of Encino, who, while working at the sham clinics, allegedly lied to pharmacies seeking to verify the fraudulent narcotic prescriptions, which included creating and sending fake medical paperwork;
  • Frederick Manning Jr., 47, of Santa Ana, allegedly one of the major drug customers of the clinics, who is charged with agreeing to purchase as many as 1,000 pills per week of narcotics from Matosyan;
  • Fred Minassian, 50, of Glendale, the criminal defense attorney who allegedly spearheaded the scheme to lie to law enforcement by making it falsely appear that Vicodin seized from Freddie Manning Jr. had been legitimately prescribed by a doctor;
  • Ralph Manning, 49, of North Hills (no relation to Frederick Manning Jr.), who is charged with being one of the principal couriers Matosyan used to deliver fraudulent prescriptions and “bulk quantities” of narcotic pills;
  • Hayk Matosyan, 30, of Granada Hills, Matosyan’s brother, who allegedly filled fraudulent narcotic prescriptions at pharmacies and sold the resulting narcotics pills to black-market customers.
  • Marisa Montenegro, 54, of West Hills, who allegedly filled fraudulent prescriptions;
  • Elizabeth Gurumdzhyan, 25, of Hollywood, who allegedly filled fraudulent prescriptons;
  • Anait Guyumzhyan, 27, of Hollywood, who allegedly filled prescriptions for oxycodone and returned the drugs to Matosyan-operated clinics in exchange for cash payment; and
  • James Wilson, 54, of Venice, who alone is charged in the second indictment with illegally selling oxycodone prescriptions out of a Long Beach clinic that he controlled.

The 12 defendants arrested this morning are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court.

Authorities are continuing to seek two defendants named in the main indictment. Those fugitives are: Gary Henderson, 62, of Lancaster, who allegedly purchased fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions from Matosyan; and an unidentified conspirator known only by the name “Cindy.”

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

All of the defendants face significant terms in federal prison if they are convicted. For example, if convicted of the nine counts in which he is charged, Matosyan would face a statutory maximum sentence of 165 years in prison.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration; IRS Criminal Investigation; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General; the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The primary investigative agencies received substantial assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Department of Justice, and the Orange Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Benjamin Barron and Jamie Lang of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

U.S. Files New Complaint Against City Of Los Angeles and a Former Redevelopment Agency to Recover Millions of Federal Grant Dollars Allegedly Obtained by Making False Promises to Provide Housing to Persons with Disabilities

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The United States late yesterday filed a complaint in intervention against the City of Los Angeles and the CRA/LA (formerly the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles) alleging that together they fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in housing grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by falsely certifying that the money was being spent in compliance with federal accessibility laws.

The complaint in intervention – which replaces a complaint previously filed on behalf of the United States by a “whistleblower” – alleges the city and CRA/LA received federal money by falsely promising to create accessible housing for people with disabilities. Instead of creating accessible housing, they used the money to create inaccessible housing that deprived people with disabilities an equal opportunity to find housing of their choice.

The city repeatedly certified its compliance with federal accessibility laws to obtain the federal funds without taking the required steps to ensure it complied, according to the complaint, which further alleges that many of the HUD-assisted apartment buildings failed to meet minimal accessibility requirements. The city allegedly approved the design and construction of inaccessible buildings, with, among other things:

  • slopes and ramps that are too steep for safe passage by persons with mobility disabilities;
  • door thresholds that are too tall for wheelchairs to roll over;
  • steps that prohibit access to common areas;
  • kitchen cabinets, shelves and surfaces that are outside of the accessible reach ranges of persons who use wheelchairs;
  • sinks, grab bars, mailboxes and circuit breakers mounted beyond the reach of wheelchair users;
  • pipes below sinks and lavatories that are not insulated, thereby posing a physical threat of burns to people who use wheelchairs; and
  • insufficient numbers of accessible parking spaces in garages and lots.

“The complaint filed yesterday underscores the Department’s commitment to ensure that people with disabilities are provided equal access to federally-funded public housing, as required by law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

“Despite the federal government investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Los Angeles to create housing for everyone, the City of Los Angeles instead created housing only for some,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown for the Central District of California. “For 17 years, the city falsely certified that it had complied with federal law and covered up its repeated disregard of historic and important civil rights laws.”

The city and the CRA/LA allegedly violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act, as well as failed to fulfill their duty to affirmatively further fair housing. Congress passed these accessibility laws to ensure people with disabilities have an opportunity to live in an integrated society, achieve independent living, and have the same opportunities for economic and social self-sufficiency as other citizens.

By law, the city and the CRA/LA are required to comply with the federal accessibility laws. They could not – neither directly, nor through contractual or other arrangements – deny people with disabilities the opportunity to benefit from housing services or subject them to discrimination based on disability.

The accessibility laws require recipients of federal funds to operate their housing programs in a manner that is accessible to people with disabilities. Among other things, they must have a system in place to ensure compliance with the laws. They are required to develop non-discriminatory policies and practices, hire a coordinator knowledgeable about accessibility, and implement a grievance procedure that allows for just resolution of complaints. They also must maintain a publicly available list of accessible units and their accessibility features so that people who require those features are able to find housing.

The federal accessibility laws also require that recipients of federal monies have a method in place to avoid giving accessible units needed by people with disabilities to people who do not need accessibility features. The laws also require that recipients of federal monies monitor apartment buildings to ensure they are designed, constructed and altered in compliance with the law so that, among other things, five percent of all units in certain multifamily housing will be accessible to people with mobility impairments, and an additional two percent will be accessible to people with visual and auditory impairments.

The United States’ lawsuit alleges that the city and CRA/LA failed to meet these legal obligations.

The lawsuit, United States ex rel. Ling, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al., CV11-974-PG, was originally filed in U.S. District Court by whistleblowers Mei Ling, a resident of Los Angeles who uses a wheelchair, and the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy group. The United States elected to intervene in the lawsuit and take over the litigation, which prompted the unsealing of the whistleblowers’ complaint in June. The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez.

The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam – or whistleblower – provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to sue on behalf of the United States when they believe that a party has submitted false claims for government funds, and to receive a share of any recovery.

This matter was investigated by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the HUD Office of Inspector General.

The claims asserted against the City of Los Angeles and the CRA/LA are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.