A Porter Ranch man faces up to two decades in federal prison after he pleaded guilty Thursday to defrauding the federal government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Artur Chanchikyan, 55, received a total of more than $345,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration as the owner of North Hollywood-based Gentle Touch Home Health Care, the DOJ said in a news release.
Though he was accused of fraud and suspended from receiving Medicare payments by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in December 2019, he applied about four months later for a Paycheck Protection Program loan worth $160,000.
“In the PPP application, Chanchikyan made false representations, including the number of employees to whom Gentle Touch paid wages and Gentle Touch’s average monthly payroll expenses at the time of the application, and false certifications that the loan would be used for permissible business purposes by Gentle Touch,” the DOJ said. “As a result, Gentle Touch received approximately $45,472 in PPP loan proceeds.”
Also in April 2020, Gentle Touch also received almost $140,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Provider Relief Fund, which “automatically distributed funds” to health care providers who were either impacted by the pandemic or were actively treating COVID-19 patients.
In May 2020, he “falsely certified to HHS that he would use the funds to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 or to reimburse Gentle Touch for health care related expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19 as required,” prosecutors said.
Chanchikyan lied to federal officials again in July 2020, when he received almost $160,000 from the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program by “falsely represent[ing] the number of employees at Gentle Touch, and falsely certif[ying] that the loan would be used for permissible business purposes.”
“Chanchikyan used the funds from the PPP, PRF, and EIDL programs for his own benefit and for purposes that were different from those he certified,” prosecutors said.
He pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of wire fraud.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 5, and he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.