Morris County, N.J., Doctor Admits Taking Cash Kickbacks For Patient Referrals
NEWARK, N.J. – A Morris County, N.J., doctor practicing internal medicine admitted today to taking cash kickbacks for making referrals to a diagnostic testing lab in Orange, N.J., U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Mahesh Patel, 64, of Florham Park, N.J., a board-certified physician, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark to an information charging him with soliciting and receiving more than $6,000 in illegal cash kickbacks for patient referrals in violation of the federal health care anti-kickback statute.
Patel is the 15th individual to be convicted in connection with the government’s ongoing investigation of illegal payments made by Orange Community MRI LLC (Orange MRI), a diagnostic testing facility, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Patel operated his own medical practice in Orange. From 2010 through November 2011, Patel agreed to take cash payments from Orange MRI in exchange for MRI scans he referred to the diagnostic testing facility. Patel admitted to receiving cash on a per-patient basis for nearly two years, and that on one of the occasions on which he received cash, Oct. 13, 2011, he received $375 in exchange for his prior referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The anti-kickback charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for April 8, 2014.
Twelve health care providers, including Patel, have agreed to forfeit $360,510 in illegal cash kickbacks. Also, Ashokkumar Babaria, 63, of Moorestown, N.J., Orange MRI’s former medical director, agreed to forfeit his revenue from corrupt referrals, which the government estimates is in excess of $2 million. Chirag Patel, 38, of Warren, N.J., Orange MRI’s former executive director, also agreed to forfeit $89,180 in corrupt gains.
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, who investigated the case with criminal investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deputy Chief Joseph Mack and Scott B. McBride of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark.
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 $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: Robert J. Cleary Esq. and William C. Komaroff Esq., New York