The Medical Board of California recently placed the licenses of two physicians on probation—one for signing a prescription for a patient he never examined and the other for being convicted of Medi-Cal fraud.
Meanwhile, a third doctor pleaded guilty to faking his own death to avoid an insurance fraud case.
After the medical board received a complaint, an undercover officer posed as a patient at Anaheim Market Clinic, 1311 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, on March 26, 2013. After completing a medical questionnaire, she was taken into an examination room, where she detailed for a medical assistant her symptoms (ear infection and sore throat) and the level of her throbbing pain and humming noise in her ear (six on a 10-point scale).
After entering that information, the “patient’s” vitals and height and weight into a computer in the exam room, the assistant left and a “Dr. Luis” entered. (He turned out to be an unlicensed fellow named Horacio Fernandez Sifuentes, according to the medical board.)
The phony doctor examined the woman and then wrote a prescription for 21, 500 mg. capsules of Cephalexin, an antibiotic that fights infections. But it was pediatrician Dr. Hitesh D. Patel who signed the script without ever having seen the patient—a violation of state law.
The undercover returned May 30, 2013, but “Dr. Luis” saw no signs of the ear infection the “patient” was complaining about, so he called in Patel to examine the woman. Patel diagnosed her with temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ, often associated with grinding of the teeth while sleeping) and prescribed her an antibiotic and Motrin.
However, medical records obtained by the state board show that Patel exaggerated the extent of the examination and that he diagnosed her with middle-ear inflammation, not TMJ.
The board faulted Patel for failing to examine the patient during the first visit, poor and inaccurate record keeping and violating the Medical Practice Act. When meting out punishment, board members considered that Patel’s license was placed on five years probation on Sept. 24, 1998, for verbally sexually harassing a minor female outpatient and adult female secretary at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. The board also considered his June 20, 1990, discipline from the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners for deliberately altering his Educational Commission for Foreign medical Graduates certification.
Effective last Thursday, Patel's license was placed on five years’ probation, during which he must complete ethics, prescribing and record-keeping courses, have his practice monitored by a board designee, inform every hospital and clinic where he has privileges of his probationary status, stay away from physician assistants, obey all laws, give the board quarterly updates on his progress and avoid house calls.
Patel signed a declartion agreeing to his punishment, as did Kimberly Kirchmeyer, executive director of the Medical Board of California. Separately, Kirchmeyer laid out the board's case against Dr. George H. Tarryk Jr., who was disciplined after being convicted of a crime related to his duties as an internal medicine physician in Long Beach.
Tarryk had been indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2012 for defrauding Medicare from 2005-09, for which he pleaded guilty in January 2013.
In disciplining him, the board considered his license having been placed on probation for five years in February 2005 for gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, incompetence, excessive prescribing of controlled substances, prescribing an addict and failure to maintain adequate records.
Also effective last Thursday, Tarryk's license was suspended for a year and placed on five years’ probation. He and Kirchmeyer signed an agreement stating he will refrain from practicing medicine for a year, take an ethic course, have his practice and billing procedures monitored by a state board designee, notify hospitals and clinics where he has privileges of his license status, refrain from overseeing physician assistants and obey all laws.
Newport Beach anesthesiologist Tigran Svadjian pleaded guilty last Tuesday to fleeing the U.S. District Court area to evade justice, which sets the 58-year-old up for a mandatory five year prison sentence from Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald in Los Angeles on Feb. 9.
Svadijian was facing federal health care fraud charges in Sacramento in 2002 for allegedly bilking the state Medi-Cal program out of more than $2.4 million in fraudulent insurance billings. After agreeing to cooperate with the government's investigation, he was allowed to travel to Moscow to visit his ailing mother.
However, in October 2002, federal officials were notified that Svadjian died of pneumonia while in Russia and his remains had been cremated. The fraud charges were eventually dismissed.
Svadjian, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Armenia, left his wife and children behind in Newport Beach when he first traveled overseas.
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He had been deported to Egypt by Ukrainian authorities after they determined he was travelling on a fraudulent Lithuanian passport. He stayed mostly in Egypt for the past 14 years, when he most recently worked as a part-time scuba instructor.
He was en route to Russia with a fake passport in July when he was apprehended in Egypt, where authorities discovered his residence and real name on an old U.S. passport. Svadijian was escorted back to the U.S. by federal agents.
He recently admitted to federal authorities that he paid a Russian police officer in 2002 to fake his death and submit an official report about his demise to the U.S. Embassy.
The case where Svadjian is accused of defrauding Medi-Cal by submitting bills for tests that had not been performed, in many cases because the “patients” were dead, has been reinstated, according to the U.S. Attorney.