The Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested 73 people involved in the largest Medicare scam in the program's history, the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday.
The vast network of Armenian gangsters and their cohorts were charged for using phantom healthcare clinics to cheat the government out of $163 million.
"The international organized crime enterprise known as the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian, fleeced the healthcare system through a wide-range of money making criminal fraud schemes," said Kevin Perkins, FBI assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division.
Authorities said the group had stolen the identities of doctors and set up 118 clinics in 25 states. They used the names to submit phony bills for health care procedures that were never performed.
"The patient will not know that their Medicare ID was taken from them, so all of their Medicare eligibility is run up to the point that when it's time for them to use their own Medicare card, they are not eligible for any more dollars," said Sheriff Lee Baca of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the scope of the Medicare scheme "puts the traditional mafia to shame."
"We want to restore the confidence in the nation's healthcare system and assure practitioners we will not stand by and let their identities be used for criminal gain," Perkins said.