Doctor Admits Taking Bribes In Test-Referrals Scheme With New Jersey Clinical Lab
NEWARK, N.J. – A doctor with a family medicine practice in New Jersey admitted today to accepting bribes in exchange for test referrals as part of a long-running scheme operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS), of Parsippany, N.J., its president and numerous associates, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Joel Fischgrund, 60, of Livingston, N.J., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court to one count of accepting bribes.
Including Fischgrund, 22 people – 11 of them physicians – have pleaded guilty in connection with the bribery scheme, which its organizers have admitted involved millions of dollars in bribes and resulted in more than $100 million in payments to BLS from Medicare and various private insurance companies.
According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court:
Fischgrund today admitted he accepted bribes in return for referring patient blood specimens to BLS and was paid $1,500 a month under a sham consulting agreement. As part of the purported agreement with Advantech Sales LLC, he was required to fill out a sheet – titled “Consultant Advisory Board Data Sheet” – that only took minutes to complete. Fischgrund admitted he knew the questions on that sheet had no real value to Advantech and were designed to disguise the bribe payments.
The bribery count to which Fischgrund pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for April 1, 2014. As part of his guilty plea, Fischgrund agreed to forfeit the bribes he received from BLS.
The investigation has recovered more than $7 million to date through forfeiture.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas O’Donnell; IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen; and inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates, with the ongoing investigation leading to today’s guilty pleas.
The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Andrew Leven, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Minish and Jacob T. Elberg, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Ward of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. 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 $520 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: Edward Dauber Esq., Newark