Morris County, N.J., Doctor Sentenced To Prison, Fined For Taking Cash Kickbacks For Patient Referrals
NEWARK, N.J. – A doctor practicing internal medicine in Orange, N.J., was sentenced today to five months in prison and five months of home confinement for taking cash kickbacks for making referrals to a diagnostic testing lab in Orange, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Mahesh Patel, 64, of Florham Park, N.J., a board-certified physician, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court 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.
Including Patel, 17 defendants – including 15 doctors – have been convicted in connection with the government’s ongoing investigation of illegal payments made by Orange Community MRI LLC (Orange MRI), a diagnostic testing facility.
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.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Cecchi sentenced Patel to serve two years of supervised release, forfeit $6,600 and pay a $30,000 fine.
Ashokkumar Babaria, 64, of Moorestown, N.J., Orange MRI’s former medical director, has been ordered to forfeit more than $2 million in revenue from corrupt referrals. Chirag Patel, 38, of Warren, N.J., Orange MRI’s former executive director, awaits sentencing and has agreed to forfeit $89,180 in corrupt gains. In addition, 13 health care providers, including Mahesh Patel, have agreed to forfeit a total of $460,140 in illegal cash kickbacks. Two health care providers were convicted at trial and forfeiture has yet to be determined.
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 Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit and Acting Chief of the office’s General Crimes Unit, Joseph Mack; and Deputy Chief Scott B. McBride of the office’s Economic Crimes 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 approximately $535 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.