The Glendale man charged was Artur Stepanyan of Adams Square Pharmacy.
He was charged Aug. 5 with defrauding Medi-Cal of 80,000, said Patty
Pontello, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office.
Stepanyan said he is defending himself against the charges. The
government has not even presented him with a copy of the complaint
against him, he said.
"That's my problem. I don't know what I'm being charged with," he
Pontello said while many of those involved in the fraud are Armenian,
the charges are not racially motivated.
Vicken Papazian, executive director of the western region of the
Armenian National Committee, said he hopes investigators didn't look for
Armenian surnames when choosing who to investigate.
"Everyone is accountable to the law, but I am concerned," he said.
"Hopefully, they are just concerns and nothing else."
Pontello said the law has been colorblind.
"The first person charged was named Vuong. The second was Atkinson,"
In total, the government has accused 78 companies of stealing more
than $35 million through false claims.
Assemblyman Scott Wildman (D-Glendale), who has made a name for
himself fighting government waste on a state government committee, said
the amount of fraud could be unprecedented. Wildman said he has not seen
the details of the investigation.
"But frankly, if someone is guilty of fraud, they need to be
prosecuted, whoever they are," he said.
Wildman said the state needs stricter enforcement and prosecution of
existing laws. "This money should be going to take care of people," he
State Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Glendale), whose office sparked the
investigation after a complaint of too many medical supply companies in
Eagle Rock, said lawmakers will likely work to tighten regulations on
medical supply providers next year. Schiff once prosecuted fraud cases
when he was an assistant U.S. attorney.
"My experience there demonstrated whenever there is a significant
amount of money spent without oversight, the potential for theft is
there," he said.
Ramon Babaie, the owner Senior Med Medical & Equipment Supplies on
West Glenoaks Boulevard, which has not been charged in the investigation,
said he was amazed at hearing of the allegations against businesses in
The business he started over six years ago with his wife and son has
grown to include over 25,000 items, he said. Investigators came to the
business last year and stayed 10 hours before granting their blessing, he
"Our taxpayers have to pay for dishonest people," he said. "That's not