SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A federal grand jury indicted three Southern California residents Wednesday who prosecutors say were involved in a fraudulent health insurance scheme involving more than $50 million worth of unneeded medical procedures.
According to the U.S. Attorney, the three defendants charged today are Vi Nguyen, 31, of Placentia; Theresa Fisher, 44, of Tustin; and Lindsay Hardgraves, 30, of San Pedro.
Nguyen, a consultant at the surgery center, is charged with 10 counts of mail fraud.
Fisher was another consultant who is charged with five counts of mail fraud, and Hardgraves was a marketer who is charged with two counts of mail fraud, officials said.
The indictment alleges that marketers lured patients to a surgery center in Orange County under the names of Empire Surgical Center, Vista Surgical Center and Princess Cosmetic Surgery.
During a consultation, patients were then told that they would be able to use their healthcare plans to pay for these surgeries and even receive free or discounted cosmetic procedures if they underwent multiple surgeries that are generally not covered by insurance, officials said.
Patients typically underwent procedures like endoscopies, colonoscopies and cystocopies. Once their insurance programs paid the claims, patients were offered discounted procedures that included tummy tucks, rhinoplasties, breast augmentations and liposuction, prosecutors said.
“As a result of the fradulent scheme, defendants Nguyen, Fisher and Hardgraves caused losses to union and PPO healthcare benefit programs of more than $50 million in claims for functional procedures that were not medically necessary and in some cases not provided,” the indictment alleges.
The three defendants were arrested July 1 and made their initial court appearances the same day, and all were released on bond.
If convicted, the defendants will each face maximum sentences of 20 years in federal prison for each mail-fraud count.
They have been ordered to appear July 28 for an arraignment.