Eighth new jersey health care practitioner pleads guilty in cash-for-patients scheme
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. – Rameshcha Kania, a doctor practicing in East Orange, N.J., today admitted his role in a cash-for-patients scheme with a diagnostic facility in Orange, N.J., U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Kania, 60, of Livingston, N.J., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court to an Information charging him with one count of soliciting and receiving 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:
On Dec. 13, 2011, Kania was arrested and charged with accepting cash kickback payments from Orange Community MRI (“Orange MRI”), a diagnostic facility, in exchange for his referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients. Also on Dec. 13, 2011, 12 other New Jersey doctors and one nurse practitioner were arrested and charged in separate Complaints with accepting similar cash kickback payments from Orange MRI. Each of the defendants were recorded taking envelopes of cash in exchange for their patient referrals. On Dec. 8, 2011, an Orange MRI executive was arrested and charged in a separate complaint in connection with his participation in the scheme.
Kania is the eighth person arrested in the case to pled guilty. He is one of seven health care providers that referred patients to Orange MRI who has pleaded guilty thus far; these defendants have collectively agreed to forfeit more than $150,000 in illegal kickbacks from Orange MRI. The eighth defendant, Ashokkumar Babaria, Orange MRI’s former medical director, agreed to forfeit his revenues traceable to the corrupt referrals, which the government has estimated at up to $2 million.
Starting in at least 2010, Orange MRI began making monthly cash kickback payments to Kania. At the end of each month, individuals at Orange MRI printed Orange MRI patient reports that detailed how many magnetic resonance imagings (“MRIs”) and computed axial tomographies (“CAT Scans”) were referred by Kania. These patient reports were used to calculate the monthly kickback payment owed to Kania, who was paid kickbacks for each Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary MRI or CAT Scan referred to Orange MRI.
Kania received three separate payments from a cooperating government witness during the course of the investigation. On Oct. 4, 2011, Kania accepted $740 in cash for his July and August patient referrals to Orange MRI; on Oct. 13, 2011, Kania accepted $550 in cash for his September referrals; and on Nov. 10, 2011, Kania accepted $460 in cash for his October referrals.
Kania faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Judge Cecchi continued Kania on bail pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 31, 2013.
With respect to the other defendants charged in the investigation:
• Jose Castaneda, a nurse practitioner formerly practicing in Newark, pleaded guilty before Judge Cecchi on April 3, 2012, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14, 2012.
• Yash Khanna, M.D., a doctor practicing in East Orange, was indicted on May 4, 2012, by a federal grand jury on one count of accepting kickbacks; Judge Cecchi has set the trial date for Dec. 3, 2012.
• Dov Rand, M.D., a doctor practicing in West Orange, pleaded guilty before Judge Cecchi on May 18, 2012, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 24, 2012.
• Daisy Deguzman, M.D., a doctor practicing in Newark, pleaded guilty before Judge Cecchi on June 4, 2012, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 25, 2012.
• William Lagrada, M.D., another Newark doctor, pleaded guilty before Judge Cecchi on July 11, 2012, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 17, 2012.
• Maryam Jafari, M.D., another Newark doctor, was indicted on July 13, 2012, by a federal grand jury on one count of accepting kickbacks. On Sept. 14, 2012, the same grand jury handed up a superseding indictment against Dr. Jafari, charging her with one count of conspiracy and two counts of accepting kickbacks. Judge Cecchi has set the trial date for Oct. 22, 2012.
• Chikezie Onyenso, M.D., an Irvington doctor, was indicted on Sept. 7, 2012, by a federal grand jury on one count of accepting kickbacks; Judge Cecchi has set a trial date for Nov. 16, 2012.
• Dinesh Patel, M.D., another Newark doctor, pleaded guilty before Judge Cecchi on Sept. 19, 2012, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 9, 2013.
• Ashokkumar Babaria, M.D., a Moorestown, N.J., radiologist and Orange MRI’s former medical director and owner-in-fact, pleaded guilty before Judge Cecchi on Sept. 27, 2012, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 30, 2013.
• Lucio Cardoso, M.D., a North Arlington physician, pled guilty before Judge Cecchi on October 10, 2012, and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 30, 2013.
The remaining defendants charged in the investigation are charged in criminal complaints 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 the guilty plea.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott B. McBride and Joseph G. Mack of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.
Defense counsel: Jack Wenik and Mark Olinsky Esqs., Newark