A doctor who was facing charges in a federal health care fraud case when he fled the United States 14 years ago and faked his own death in Russia plead guilty to federal charges related to his flight from justice, according to officials.
Tigran Svadjian is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 9, at which time the defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
Svadjian, 58, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Armenia who was residing in Newport Beach prior to fleeing the country in September 2002, plead guilty Tuesday in federal court, according to officials..
Svadjian plead guilty to unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, the sole count in an indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on Sept.2.
In a case filed in 2002 in Sacramento, Svadjian was charged in a 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 went to Russia, leaving behind his wife and children.
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.
The Embassy issued a report documenting the death, and Svadjian’s defense counsel submitted that report to federal prosecutors, according to officials.
In January 2013 after lengthy and unsuccessful attempts to locate Svadjian or to obtain further confirmation of his death, prosecutors in California dismissed the health care fraud case.
During his change of plea hearing yesterday, Svadjian admitted that he paid a Russian police officer in 2002 to fake his death and submit an official report about his death to the United States Embassy. Soon after, Svadjian relocated to Hurghada, Egypt, where he occasionally worked as a scuba instructor.
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 traveling on a fraudulent Lithuanian passport.
Egyptian authorities discovered in his residence an old U.S. passport with his true name.
“Although this defendant’s attempted flight from justice delayed his prosecution, he could not escape it,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant developed an elaborate hoax to avoid prosecution, a scheme that involved faking his death and assuming a false identity. But he seriously underestimated the dedication of the Department of Justice, and he now faces the prospect of a lengthy stay in federal prison.”
“Mr. Svadjian’s luck in deceiving authorities in the U.S. and abroad for many years ultimately ran out,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “FBI Agents around the world took part in bringing Mr. Svadjian back to face the consequences of his actions. This case demonstrates not only the global reach of the FBI, but our commitment to holding accountable individuals who flee from justice, regardless of how far they run or how much time has passed.”
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