SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned an 11-count indictment Thursday against Anthony Lazzarino, 66, former Chief of Podiatry for the VA’s Northern California Health Care System, and Peter Wong, 58, founder and CEO of Sunrise Shoes and Pedorthic Service, charging them with health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks on medical referrals, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, between March 2008 and February 2015, Lazzarino and Wong engaged in a scheme to defraud the VA by billing the Veterans Health Administration for custom work and services that were prescribed but not supplied in shoes delivered to veterans. In addition, Lazzarino referred patients directly to Sunrise in violation of VA policy, and agreed with Wong to offer kickbacks in return for such referrals. Finally, Lazzarino, Wong, and Jai Aing Chen, who separately pleaded guilty on December 6, 2016, agreed to make materially false statements and omissions to the VA regarding where the shoes were manufactured, in the course of applying for an estimated $59 million contract.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, the Department of Veterans Affairs Police Service, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Yelovich is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Lazzarino and Wong 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 each of the two conspiracy counts. Any sentence, however, would 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. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.