Santa Cruz native among seven Californians charged in $150 million COVID aid fraud scheme

The United States District Court, Northern District of California, in San Francisco.
(Via Google Maps)

The Justice Department alleges that Jaimi Jansen of Santa Cruz helped to distribute a fake COVID cure and fake vaccination cards; she was charged with making false statements related to health care.

A Santa Cruz native was among 21 people, including seven Californians, arrested earlier this week for alleged COVID-19 aid fraud totaling nearly $150 million.

Jaimi Jansen, 40, was charged with making false statements related to health care. She is accused of helping distribute fake cure and fake vaccination cards; Juli Mazi, the woman at the center of that scheme, pleaded guilty on April 6 to wire fraud and making false statements related to health care.

Per a bio on its site, Jansen is CEO and founder of Santa Cruz Core Fitness + Rehab, which has locations in Santa Cruz and Watsonville.

The Justice Department announced the arrests Wednesday, with those charged in the investigation including medical business owners and executives, physicians and marketers, as well as multiple alleged manufacturers of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. The individuals were arrested in California, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.

The Justice Department said it has reclaimed $8 million so far.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen trusted medical professionals orchestrate and carry out egregious crimes against their patients all for financial gain,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division in a statement. “These health care fraud abuses erode the integrity and trust patients have with those in the health care industry, particularly during a vulnerable and worrisome time for many individuals.”

Jaimi Jansen in a screengrab from her bio page on Santa Cruz Core Fitness + Rehab's website.

Jansen and Mazi were charged in the Northern District of California. Along with Jason Costanza, 46, of El Campo, Texas, and pharmacist Ranna Shamiya, 41, of Ukiah, they were accused in the same scheme to offer fake cures for COVID-19 known as homeoprophylaxis immunizations and distribute fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards.

Citing federal charging documents, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Jansen and Mazi agreed in May 2021 to sell fake pellets and procure falsified vaccination cards to clients. Jansen is alleged to have paid Mazi, a licensed naturopathic doctor from Napa, “on behalf of the customers but charged the customers a higher price than she paid Mazi in order to make a personal profit.”

Jansen is alleged to have taken in around $14,000, the Chronicle reported.

Shamiya was charged with making false statements related to health care and is accused of providing Mazi with legitimate lot numbers for Food and Drug Administration-authorized COVID-19 vaccines to be used for fake vaccination records. Court records did not list attorneys for Jansen or Shamiya as of Wednesday.

Per the Chronicle, Jansen and Shamiya could face up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release if convicted.

In the Central District of California, two owners of a clinical laboratory, Imran Shams, 63, and Lourdes Navarro, 63, both of Glendale, have been charged with a scheme aimed at defrauding Medicare of over $214 million for laboratory tests, including more than $125 million in false and fraudulent claims during the pandemic for COVID-19 and respiratory pathogen tests. No pleas have yet been entered in the case. Navarro’s attorney declined to comment. Shams’ charges do not yet appear in the federal court records, and it was unclear whether he had an attorney.

Artur Chanchikyan, 54, of Los Angeles, is also being charged in the Central District with wire fraud, theft of government property, and money laundering offenses in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud the United States of approximately $345,000 in COVID-19 relief funds. Chanchikyan’s charges also do not yet appear yet in federal court records, and it was unclear whether he had an attorney.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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