Passaic County, New Jersey, Doctor Charged With Taking Bribes In Test-Referral Scheme With New Jersey Clinical Lab
NEWARK, N.J. – A doctor practicing in Passaic County, New Jersey, was charged today with 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 Paul J. Fishman announced.
Salvatore Conte, 52, of Totowa, New Jersey, is charged by indictment with one count of conspiring to commit violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute, the Federal Travel Act and wire fraud; three substantive violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute; three substantive violations of the Federal Travel Act; and three substantive violations of wire fraud. Conte will be arraigned at a later date.
According to the indictment:
From February 2009 through April 2013, Conte received bribes totaling approximately $130,000 from BLS employees and associates. Conte periodically solicited, and received from the BLS employees and associates, monthly bribe payments in the form of sham rental, service agreement, and consultant payments. Conte’s referrals generated approximately $525,000 in lab business for BLS.
Conte is the fifth physician to be indicted in connection with the BLS bribery scheme. Ahmed El Soury and Thomas Savino were indicted on Dec. 13, 2016 and Dec. 20, 2016, respectively. Brett Ostrager – who was indicted Aug. 11, 2015 and pleaded guilty on Dec. 22, 2015 – was sentenced on June 8, 2016 to 37 months in prison. Bernard Greenspan was indicted on March 14, 2016 and is scheduled for trial on Jan. 31, 2017.
The investigation has thus far resulted in 41 guilty pleas – 27 of them from 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 $12 million through forfeiture. On June 28, 2016, BLS, which is no longer operational, pleaded guilty and was required to forfeit all of its assets.
The Anti-Kickback and Federal Travel Act counts are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The wire fraud charges are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Each count also carries a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark; inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn; IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen; 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 Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph N. Minish and 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 Barbara Ward, Acting Chief 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 $1.32 billion 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 Baer Esq., Wayne, New Jersey