LOS ANGELES – A medical doctor who fled the United States nearly 15 years ago and faked his own death to avoid prosecution in a healthcare fraud case was sentenced late this afternoon to 29 months in federal prison for fleeing justice.
Tigran Svadjian, 58, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Armenia who was residing in Newport Beach prior to fleeing the country in September 2002, was sentenced late this afternoon by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.
Svadjian pleaded guilty in November to one count of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
In a case filed in 2002 in United States District Court in Sacramento, Svadjian, who operated medical clinics in Los Angeles and Fresno, had agreed to plead guilty in a $2.4 million scheme to defraud Medi-Cal by submitting bills for tests that had not been performed, in many cases because the “patients” were dead. After being ordered to appear in federal court in the Eastern District of California for an arraignment in that case, he fled to Russia, leaving behind his wife and son.
On October 24, 2002, the United States Embassy in Moscow received notification that Svadjian had died of pneumonia and that his body had been cremated. Relying on this false information, the Embassy then issued a report documenting the death, and Svadjian’s defense counsel submitted that report to federal prosecutors.
When he pleaded guilty, Svadjian admitted that he paid a Russian police officer in 2002 to submit an official report about his death to the United States Embassy. Soon after, Svadjian obtained a fraudulent Russian passport in a different name and relocated to Hurghada, Egypt, where he occasionally worked as a scuba instructor.
In January 2013, after lengthy and unsuccessful attempts to locate Svadjian or to obtain further confirmation of his death, prosecutors in the Eastern District of California dismissed the healthcare fraud case.
Svadjian was taken into custody by Egyptian authorities on August 1 – nearly 14 years after he fled the United States. Svadjian had been deported to Egypt by Ukrainian authorities after they determined he was travelling on a fraudulent Lithuanian passport. Egyptian authorities discovered in his residence an old United States passport with his true name.
Svadjian “did not simply flee from prosecution,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. “Instead, defendant planned and implemented a sophisticated, fraudulent scheme that involved bribing foreign officials, using false statements to mislead U.S. State Department officials into creating a false death certificate, and submitting that false certificate to federal prosecutors. Defendant then hid from U.S. authorities through the use of false identities for approximately 15 years. He abandoned his wife, son, and parents, and started a whole new life without them because he did not want to spend time in prison.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case was being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bryant Y. Yang of the General Crimes Section.