Mobile imaging owner indicted in $7.5M Medicare fraud

The owner of a Maryland mobile imaging provider that performed radiology studies that were allegedly never read by actual physicians has been indicted in a U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Rafael Chikvashvili was indicted on September 11 and had a court appearance on September 15. He was released under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.

Chikvashvili was the owner of Alpha Diagnostics, which operated in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The indictment charges that between 1997 and 2013, Chikvashvili submitted false radiology, ultrasound, and cardiology claims to Medicare for x-rays, ultrasound scans, electrocardiograms, and echocardiograms.

Specifically, Chikvashvili was charged with representing to Medicare and other insurance payors that imaging studies performed by Alpha Diagnostics were being read by licensed physicians, when in fact the studies were either never performed or were interpreted by employees who were not doctors.

Alpha employees also drafted physician reports that were "signed" by copies of signatures from physicians who never actually saw the studies. If a patient's healthcare provider questioned the reports they received, Chikvashvili sent the exam to a licensed physician for a second interpretation without informing them of the original "report."

Chikvashvili also instructed a nonphysician employee to represent that he was a doctor while speaking with others on the phone. One such employee, Timothy Emeigh, was a radiologic technologist who pleaded guilty earlier this year in connection with the case.

Emeigh was performing more than 70% of Alpha's x-ray interpretations by 2010; the company performed more than 1,000 x-ray studies in Maryland alone. Emeigh is scheduled to be sentenced in October and faces 10 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Chikvashvili faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for healthcare fraud, as well as a maximum of five years in prison for each of nine counts of making false statements. He also faces two additional years for two counts of aggravated identity theft. The government is also seeking the forfeiture of $7.5 million in proceeds from the alleged fraud, as well as other funds and property.

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