Owner of Owings Mills X-ray company indicted in $7.5 million health care fraud

The owner of an Owings Mills medical firm is accused of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid of more than $7.5 million in a federal indictment unsealed Monday.

Federal prosecutors say Alpha Diagnostics owner Rafael Chikvashvili, 67, of Baltimore created false examination reports, submitted insurance claims for medical procedures that were never performed by licensed physicians, and overbilled Medicare and Medicaid, among other fraudulent acts.

The X-ray company's offices in Owings Mills and Harrisburg, Pa., were raided last October by the FBI.

Chikvashvili directed his employees, who were not doctors, to interpret X-rays, medical tests, ultrasounds and cardiological exams, rather than paying licensed physicians to do the work, the indictment alleged. He also had employees draft fake physicians' examination reports and then he forged doctors' signatures at the bottom of them, it said.

If a caregiver called to question an interpretation, Chikvashvili reassigned the test or examination to a licensed doctor without telling that doctor that his office already had provided an interpretation, the indictment said.

In Medicare and Medicaid insurance claims from at least 1997 until October 2013, Alpha Diagnostics exaggerated the work its technologists did, performed unnecessary services, overcharged for transportation costs and falsely contended that Alpha Diagnostics was being overseen by supervising physicians, the indictment said.

Chikvashvili, who has a doctorate in mathematics but is not a medical doctor, also instructed his employees to mislead people to believe he was a physician when answering the phone, the indictment said.

Ty Kelly, Chikvashvili's attorney, said her client is "disappointed that this is the way the investigation turned out, but not necessarily surprised."

Chikvashvili has cooperated with every request by investigators, she said, and is prepared to defend the charges in court. Kelly declined to elaborate on what the defense would include.

The indictment also seeks a $7.5 million forfeiture, including the company's two properties, luxury vehicles, bank and investment accounts, and a safe-deposit box. FBI agents seized $1 million from the company's bank accounts when the offices were raided last year.

If convicted, Chikvashvili could receive a maximum 10-year sentence in prison for health care fraud, a maximum of five years in prison for each of nine counts of making false statements, and a mandatory two years for two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Kelly said she is not fazed by the dozen charges her client faces.

"I can tell you the number of charges does not necessarily equate to the amount of evidence the government has," she said.

A. Jeff Ifrah, a Washington attorney representing Alpha Diagnostics, said the company and its owner have been working to avoid the charges, "and unfortunately that hasn't happened."

"Based on facts and evidence that the government presented," Ifrah said, Chikvashvili and his company "still have a very viable defense."

Chikvashvili appeared Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and was released under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services, prosecutors said.



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