Doctor Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Taking Bribes in Test-Referral Scheme with New Jersey Clinical Lab
NEWARK, N.J. – A Monmouth County doctor with practices in Colts Neck, New Jersey, and Staten Island, New York, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for test referrals as part of a long-running and elaborate scheme operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS), of Parsippany, New Jersey, its president and numerous associates, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Ralph Messo, 56, of Colts Neck, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to an information charging him with one count of accepting bribes. Judge Chesler imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court:
Messo admitted he accepted bribes in return for referring patient blood specimens to BLS and was paid approximately $3,000 per month. Messo’s referrals generated at least $828,000 in lab business for BLS.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Chesler sentenced Messo to two years of supervised release and fined him $4,000.
The investigation has thus far resulted in 53 convictions – 38 of them doctors – 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. It is believed to be the largest number of medical professionals ever prosecuted in a bribery case.
The investigation has to date recovered more than $13 million through forfeiture. On June 28, 2016, BLS, which is no longer operational, pleaded guilty and was required to forfeit all of its assets.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark; inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Ruth M. Mendonca; IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson in Newark; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert, with the ongoing investigation.
The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Joseph N. Minish, Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Alfonzo Walsman 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.