San Diego, California - The CEO of several Southern California-based medical imaging companies was found guilty by a federal jury last week of running a scheme in which more than $250 million in claims were fraudulently submitted through the state workers’ compensation system for medical services procured through bribes and kickbacks to physicians and others.
Sam Sarkis Solakyan, 40, of Glendale, was found 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 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.
According to the evidence presented at the eight-day trial, from no later than mid-2013 to November 2016, Solakyan conspired with Steven Rigler, a Solana Beach-based chiropractor; Fermin Iglesias, the former CEO of MedEx Solutions, a patient-scheduling company; and others to perpetrate a scheme in which physicians were paid bribes and kickbacks in exchange for the referral of workers’ compensation patients. The compensation offered to the corrupt 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 in order 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’s recruiters – Fermin Iglesias, 41 of Glendale, and Carlos Arguello, 39, of Bonita – were paid more than $8.6 million for obtaining MRI referrals, payments which were concealed from patients and health insurers.
Solakyan concealed his cash payments to Rigler for patient referrals by calling them “reports,” and in March 2015 he asked Rigler if Solakyan could “send my driver with your reports,” then stated, “I’ll have him contact you then I’ll just send him with your reports, buddy,” according to a September 2018 federal grand jury indictment.
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.
Rigler pleaded guilty in November 2015 to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud and was sentenced to six months in federal prison.
Iglesias pleaded guilty in December 2016 to conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud and health care fraud and was sentenced in February 2019 to five years in federal prison.
Arguello pleaded guilty in August 2016 to conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud and health care fraud and was sentenced in April 2019 to four years in federal prison.
United States District Judge Cynthia A. Bashant has scheduled an October 4 sentencing hearing, at which time Solakyan will face a statutory maximum sentence of 240 years in federal prison.
The FBI and the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division, investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Faraz R. Mohammadi of the Santa Ana Branch Office and Assistant United States Attorney Adam P. Schleifer of the Major Frauds Section are prosecuting this case.