Internist Admits Taking Cash Kickbacks For Patient Referrals
NEWARK, N.J. – A Somerset County doctor practicing internal medicine at Newark Community Health Center, where she is the clinical director, today admitted receiving cash kickbacks for diagnostic testing referrals of her patients, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Padma Siripurapu, 46, of Belle Mead, N.J., pleaded guilty to an information charging her with one count of soliciting and receiving more than $50,000 in illegal cash kickbacks for patient referrals in violation of the federal health care anti-kickback statute.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From 2009 through December 2011, Siripurapu agreed with representatives of the diagnostic center Orange Community MRI LLC (Orange MRI) that Orange MRI would pay her a set amount of cash for every MRI, CAT scan, ultrasound, echocardiogram, and DEXA scan she referred. Siripurapu referred patients for more than a thousand of these tests during that time period and was paid a per-test amount for those referrals.
Siripurapu admitted that on Nov. 2, 2011, she received $3,600 in cash from a government informant at her doctor’s office in Newark in exchange for referrals. On Nov. 17, 2011, again at her office in Newark, Siripurapu received another kickback for patient referrals, this time $3,450 in cash.
The anti-kickback charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 9, 2013.
Siripurapu is the twelfth person in the government’s investigation of Orange MRI and its corrupt referring doctors to plead guilty. Nine health care providers to have pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks have agreed to forfeit $325,300 in illegal kickbacks from Orange MRI. The two other defendants, Ashokkumar Babaria, Orange MRI’s former medical director, and Chirag Patel, Orange MRI’s former executive director, have agreed to forfeit their corrupt gains. Babaria agreed to forfeit his revenues traceable to corrupt referrals, which the government has estimated could reach as much as $2 million. Patel has forfeited $89,180. The remaining defendants charged in the investigation are charged by complaints or indictments at this time.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell, as well as criminal investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s criminal investigator program, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Mack and Scott B.
McBride of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.
Defense counsel: Bruce A. Levy Esq. and Lawrence S. Lustberg Esq., Newark