Board-Certified New Jersey Pediatrician And Internist Sentenced To 20 Months In Prison For Taking Kickbacks
NEWARK, N.J. – A board-certified pediatrician and internist from Morris County, N.J., was sentenced today to 20 months in prison for soliciting and taking cash and rental payments as kickbacks for his patients’ diagnostic testing referrals, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Chikezie Onyenso, 55, of Randolph, N.J., was convicted on Oct. 15, 2013, after a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi, of conspiracy to solicit and receive kickbacks from a diagnostic testing facility called Orange Community MRI LLC (Orange MRI), and of soliciting and taking such kickbacks from Orange MRI. Judge Cecchi imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
Including Onyenso, 18 defendants – including 16 doctors – have been convicted in connection with the government’s ongoing investigation of illegal payments made by Orange MRI.
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:
Onyenso was a licensed and board-certified pediatrician and internist who owned his own medical practice, Total Support Medical Group, in Irvington, N.J. From the summer of 2010 through December 2011 he conspired to take illegal kickbacks in exchange for sending his patients to Orange MRI. Onyenso sought and accepted thousands of dollars of cash in envelopes in exchange for referring his Medicare and Medicaid patients to Orange MRI for MRIs and CAT scans. For his ultrasound referrals, Onyenso received from Orange MRI more than $25,000 in kickback payments disguised as rental payments and documented by a bogus, $1,000-per-square-foot lease. He was recorded taking cash kickbacks in his Irvington office on Oct. 11, 2011, and Nov. 22, 2011.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Cecchi sentenced Onyenso to two years of supervised release, fined him $40,000 and ordered him to forfeit $42,176.
Ashokkumar Babaria, 64, of Moorestown, N.J., Orange MRI’s former medical director, has been ordered to forfeit $2 million in revenue from corrupt referrals. Chirag Patel, 38, of Warren, N.J., Orange MRI’s former executive director, awaits sentencing and has agreed to forfeit $89,180 in corrupt gains. In addition, health care providers, including Onyenso, have agreed to or been ordered to forfeit a total of $429,666 in illegal cash kickbacks.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell, and criminal investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott B. McBride, deputy chief of the Economic Crimes Unit, and Joseph G. Mack, deputy chief of the Health Care and Government Fraud Unit, in Newark.
U.S. Attorney Fishman reorganized the health care fraud practice at the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office shortly after taking office, including creating a stand-alone Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since 2010, the office has recovered more than $500 million in health care fraud and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and other statutes.
Defense counsel: Alan L. Zegas Esq., Chatham, NJ