Society

Armenian American doctor fakes his death to avoid justice

An Armenian immigrant Newport Beach physician who faked his own death to dodge a Medi-Cal fraud case 14 years ago pleaded guilty Tuesday to fleeing to evade justice after he was arrested in Egypt, mynewsla.com reports.

Tigran Svadjian, 58, entered his plea to a single federal count of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, a felony that carries a five-year maximum sentence. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 9 in Los Angeles.

Svadjian was arrested in Egypt in July and escorted back to the U.S. by federal agents 14 years after he fled to Russia and later to Egypt, court papers show.

In 2002, he was facing federal health care fraud charges in Sacramento for allegedly bilking the state Medi-Cal program out of more than $2.4 million in fraudulent insurance billings.

After agreeing to cooperate with the government’s investigation, Svadjian was allowed to travel to Moscow to visit his ailing mother. But in October 2002, federal officials were notified that Svadjian died of pneumonia while in Russia and his remains had been cremated. The fraud charges were eventually dismissed.

Svadjian had been hiding in Egypt for much of the past 14 years, most recently working as a part-time scuba instructor. He was en route to Russia with a fake passport when he was apprehended.

Federal authorities indicated that the fraud charges would not be reinstated.

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