LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Two Los Angeles pharmacy owners were sentenced to a dozen years behind bars for operating a multimillion-dollar health care fraud and money laundering scheme to bill Medicare for medications that were never provided and to launder the illicit proceeds.
Aleksandr Suris, 51, and Maxim Sverdlov, 45, both of Sherman Oaks, were also held jointly responsible for more than $11.8 million in restitution, payable primarily to Medicare, and ordered to pay $500,000 each within six months.
The defendants were taken into federal custody on Wednesday, Feb. 26, immediately following the imposition of sentence.
Suris and Sverdlov were convicted in August in Los Angeles federal court of one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Suris was also found guilty of one additional count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and six additional counts of health care fraud. Both defendants were acquitted of three counts of health care fraud.
According to evidence presented during the 11-day trial, Suris and Sverdlov fraudulently billed Medicare and CIGNA for prescription medications that were not actually dispensed to beneficiaries by the pharmacy they owned, Royal Care Pharmacy, from 2012 to 2015.
In order to hide the fraud, Suris and Sverdlov obtained fake invoices from a co-conspirator to make it appear as if Royal Care had purchased the medicines for which it had billed Medicare, when it had not, prosecutors said.
They also used the bogus invoices to launder the proceeds of the fraud through a co-conspirator.
Suris “spent a significant amount of the money on himself and close family members,” US District Judge S. James Otero said from the bench, noting that the Ukrainian defendant’s purchases included expensive cars and homes.
The judge also pointed out that none of the stolen money has been recovered.
Federal prosecutors had asked Otero to sentence the defendants to 17 years each behind bars, while the defense requested no more than five years apiece.
“I beg and plead to you not to take me away from my family,” Suris wrote in a letter that was read aloud by his attorney.
In January, Otero delayed the sentencing hearing to allow the government to provide calculations supporting the proposed amount of loss caused by the scheme. Otero said he was “not convinced” by the prosecution’s initial $34 million loss figure, and on Wednesday told participants that he had settled on the $11.8 million loss amount.