X-ray company owner gets 10 years in prison for nursing home resident's death

The owner of a mobile diagnostic imaging company has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for healthcare fraud that lead to the death of two patients.

Baltimore-based Alpha Diagnostics owner Rafael Chikvashvili, 69, was convicted by a federal jury in February on two counts of healthcare fraud resulting in the death of a patient, as well as wire fraud, false statements, and aggravated identity theft.

Under Chikvashvili's direction, unqualified employees were instructed to interpret X-rays, ultrasounds and cardiologic examinations and create false physician reports. The reports were then submitted for Medicare and Medicare reimbursement claims. Some of the claims were for services the company was not licensed to provide.

The misinterpretation of a chest X-ray caused one nursing home resident's congestive heart failure to go unnoticed. She was not admitted to the hospital and died four days later. Witnesses say her death would not have occurred had she received hospital treatment.

A second patient examined by Alpha died six days after her mild congestive heart failure was overlooked by the company. During and after an elective surgery, the woman experienced severe blood loss, which is a symptom of the condition.

Chikvashvili forged a physician's signature on the two patients' reports and and submitted them for reimbursement. His company received a grand total of $222.23 for the claims. The reports were among several filed in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia between 1997 and 2003, accounting for more than $7 million in fraud, according to authorities.

In addition to his prison time, Chikvashvili will serve two years supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution and forfeit all money collected through the forgeries. The total figure will be decided at a later date.