LA claims adjuster and chiropractor co-conspirator arrested in $1.6 million Operation Lien on Me
News: 2020 Press Release
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Claims adjuster, Agop Sarafian, 65, of La Crescenta, and chiropractor, Shahe Topjian, D.C. 65, of Granada Hills, were arrested on felony insurance fraud charges after allegedly conspiring to defraud Sarafian's employer, the State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund), by setting up fake workers’ compensation lien payments to receive undeserved insurance payouts of over $1.6 million.
In November 2019, another State Fund employee noted a suspicious lien payment issued by Sarafian and advised a Special Investigator for State Fund regarding their concerns. State Fund, a “quasi-state agency”, initiated an investigation and discovered that Sarafian had processed 459 lien payments to Topjian over a period of twelve years. State Fund referred the case to the Department of Insurance for further investigation. A lien is often submitted by a physician or provider for payment that they believe they are entitled from a claimant’s workers’ compensation treatment or for services rendered.
The Department’s investigation, dubbed Operation Lien on Me, revealed Sarafian created and approved 459 lien payments for Topjian between 2007 and 2019. Sarafian and Topjian conspired in this organized fraud scheme to repeatedly defraud State Fund by setting up fake workers’ compensation lien payments for services that were never provided. Sarafian used information from past State Fund workers’ compensation claims he worked on to create the fraudulent lien payments.
“These trusted professionals conspired to illegally line their own pockets for over a decade,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Their actions not only defrauded money from State Fund, but also harmed California consumers who pay for this type of fraud through higher insurance premiums. My department is committed to investigating fraud to protect consumers and ensure systems designed to protect them are not misused.”
The fraudulent lien payments contained no supporting documentation that Topjian provided treatment or procedures to any of the 459 claimants. Sarafian processed the lien payments under his $5,000 approving authority limit to avoid outside approval. The payments from State Fund were sent to Topjian and a portion was given to Sarafian, though neither of them was entitled to receive any of the payments. Their alleged fraud resulted in a $1,603,340 loss to State Fund. Sarafian resigned from State Fund in December 2019.
Both Sarafian and Topjian will be booked into the Los Angeles Sheriff Department Inmate Reception Center. Bail was set at $50,000. Their arraignment will be scheduled at Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting this case.
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Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at www.insurance.ca.gov via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.