SACRAMENTO–A California federal jury found a former chief of podiatry for the Veterans Affairs’ Northern California Health Care System, and the CEO of Sunrise Shoes and Pedorthic Service Corporation, guilty of health care fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to evidence presented at trial, between March 2008 and February 2015, Anthony Lazzarino, 68, and Peter Wong, 61, engaged in a scheme to defraud the VA by billing for custom work and services that were prescribed but not supplied in shoes delivered to veterans. In addition, Lazzarino, Wong, and Jai Aing Chen, who separately pleaded guilty on December 6, 2016, agreed to make materially false statements to the VA regarding where the shoes were manufactured, in the course of applying for a national contract worth over $11 million per year.
“These are the actions of an individual(s) whose morality took a back seat to good old fashioned greed. It’s always disappointing when a person seeks to benefit from another’s health issues but preying on our veterans is particularly troubling,” said Ryan Spradlin, HSI Special Agent in Charge (San Francisco and Northern California). “Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) takes great pride in getting justice for any victim of fraud but certainly our veterans who have served this country so well.”
“Sadly, many of these victims trusted they were getting the care they needed and earned through their military service,” Spradlin said. “It is my hope that they may begin to heal physically and mentally from the pain that they were caused.”
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs Police Service, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Spradlin further stated, “HSI is committed to ensuring the security of this country by protecting the public’s health and safety, and to stopping predatory and unfair trade practices that threaten the global economy.”
Lazzarino and Wong are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Mendez on August 27. They face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each health care fraud count, and five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the wire fraud conspiracy count.
The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.