Fugitive doctor who faked death pleads guilty in Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former Southern California physician who fled to Russia and Egypt for 14 years pleaded guilty Tuesday to unlawfully fleeing to avoid prosecution.

Tigran Svadjian, 58, entered a plea to a single federal charge that carries a possible five-year prison sentence, City News Service reported.

The Newport Beach resident was facing charges that he bilked California's Medi-Cal health system out of about $2 million through phony billings when he faked his death in 2002.

Svadjian agreed to go undercover to help in a federal investigation of his practice and others for health care fraud.

He told authorities that he needed to visit his ailing mother in Russia and was permitted to do so. But then he faked his death from pneumonia, using a bribe to create phony paperwork from a Moscow morgue. He left behind a wife and children.

Years later, prosecutors dropped the fraud case against him, believing that he was dead.

Svadjian actually had moved to Egypt, where most recently he was working as a part-time scuba instructor. He had a child by his girlfriend there and another on the way.

He was arrested in July in Egypt after being sent back from the Ukraine, where he was stopped with a fake Lithuanian passport en route to Russia.

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