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Document and Benefit Fraud
11/03/2009

Doctor arrested for falsifying results of prospective immigrants?

Charges stem from probe by ICE and California Medical Board

LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles doctor was arrested Tuesday on federal criminal charges for falsifying the results of medical exams and lab tests he claimed he performed on foreign nationals who needed the documentation to complete applications for immigrant visas.

Levon Tebelekian, 72, is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court Tuesday afternoon. He is charged in a criminal complaint with fraud and misuse of immigration documents and making false statements.

The charges are the result of a 10-month joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the California Medical Board. The agencies opened the case after receiving a lead from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) Fraud Detection and National Security Unit.

"Aspiring immigrants are required to undergo a medical exam as part of the application process to ensure they don't have any medical conditions or diseases that might pose a public health threat," said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. "By allegedly giving some of his patients a clean bill of health without even examining them, this physician potentially put our communities at risk."

"The mission of the Medical Board of California is to protect healthcare consumers," said Medical Board Executive Director Barb Johnston. "The Board is satisfied that this investigation is helping to promote that mission."

During today's enforcement action, investigators executed a search warrant at Tebelekian's medical practice at 5280 ½ Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles. The affidavit filed in support of that search warrant alleges Tebelekian charged aliens up to $150 to complete the medical examination form (I-683) which must be submitted as part of the immigration application for permanent residence.

According to the affidavit, one of the defendant's alien patients told investigators she went for her appointment, but never saw the doctor or received any tests or vaccinations. Still,Tebelekian signed Form I-693, which was submitted to USCIS on the woman's behalf, stating she met all of the medical requirements to adjust her immigration status. The affidavit also describes how Tebelekian told an ICE undercover agent who went to the defendant's office posing as an alien patient that he was not going to "disturb his blood" and that he "did not look like he had AIDS."

"Our fraud detection officers work collaboratively with ICE to investigate fraudulent conduct that jeopardizes the integrity of our immigration system," said Jane Arellano, district director for USCIS in Los Angeles. "This case is a great example of the success our collaboration can achieve."

Aliens applying to become legal permanent residents must undergo a medical exam to determine if they have any health-related conditions that would make them ineligible to adjust their status. The law also requires prospective immigrants be vaccinated against certain diseases and tested for others, including tuberculosis and HIV. The defendant was on the Los Angeles-area list of USCIS Designated Civil Surgeons who are authorized to conduct these exams.

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

The charges against Tebelekian carry a maximum penalty of 80 years in prison.