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Medi-Cal Fraud Charges Filed Against Lakewood Man, Irvine Couple

Alleged scheme involves bogus physician orders for blood tests in San Diego
Tuesday, February 23, 1999
Contact: (415) 703-5837

Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced the arrest of a Lakewood man and an Irvine couple for allegedly defrauding the Medi-Cal and Medicare programs of more than $400,000 by using bogus hysician requests for blood testing at a San Diego laboratory.

Richard Go Asares, 39, of Lakewood, and Benedict "JoJo" Garcia, 33, of Irvine, each face separate felony charges of fraud and two felony counts each of identity theft for using the names of two Los Angeles County doctors and their physician identification number without permission.

Asares, Garcia, and Garcia's wife, Maria "Medette" Garcia, 34, are all charged with the felony of receiving illegal payments. Bail was set at $500,000 for Asares and Benedict, and $100,000 for Maria Garcia.

The alleged scheme involved the selling of blood for testing in laboratories that would then bill Medi-Cal and Medicare for services. The scheme came to the attention of authorities when Pantox Laboratories in San Diego reported that the defendants were submitting requests for blood testing under the names of doctors who had not ordered the tests. The laboratory had been instructed by Asares and the Garcias to give them the results to take back to the doctors.

Investigators found that more than a thousand laboratory tests run by Pantox were for patients that doctors said were not their patients. The doctors denied ever receiving test results from Pantox.

By November 1998, Asares and the Garcias had collected more than $400,000 in improper payments from the laboratory, which offered $45 for every vial of blood brought in. The laboratory has been granted immunity from prosecution for the illegal kick-backs in exchange for cooperating with authorities. The laboratory also ceased doing business with the blood sellers and placed over $200,000 in Medi-Cal and Medicare payments in trust for repayment to the government.

If convicted on all charges, Asares and Benedict Garcia face a maximum of 10 years in state prison, while Maria Garcia has exposure of three years in prison. Asares and Benedict Garcia also could be ordered to pay fines of more than $130,000 each, and $10,000 for Maria Garcia.

The case is a joint effort involving the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, Social Security's Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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