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Essex County Doctors Charged in Medical Kickback Scheme

Twelve of the 13 defendants have ties to Essex County.

Thirteen New Jersey doctors and a nurse practitioner — 12 of whom have ties to  Essex County — have been charged in a cash-for-tests referral scheme, allegedly taking illegal kickback payments to refer patients to an Orange medical testing facility.

According to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, radiology and diagnostic facility Orange Community MRI allegedly paid monthly cash kickback payments in exchange for their referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients to OCM for testing services.

Those charged include: Luis Cardoso, whose office is in Newark; Jose Castaneda, whose office is in Newark; Daisy Deguzman, a Livingston resident whose office is in Newark; Rameshcha Kania, of Livingston, whose office is in East Orange.

Others charged were: Yash Khanna of Livingston, whose office is in East Orange; Dinesh Patel of Livingston, whose office is in Newark; Eddie Rosa who lives and works in Newark; Shashi Agarwal, whose office is in East Orange; John Green whose office is in Newark; Dov Rand whose office is in West Orange; Chikezie Onyenso, whose office is in Irvington; William Lagrada, whose office is in Newark and Padma Siripurapu, whose office is in Newark.

According to a news release, OCM’s executive director, Chirag Patel, 36, of Warren, was arrested on Dec. 8 in connection with the scheme. He appeared on the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo and was released on a $750,000 bond.

More than 65 federal and local agents and officers, led by Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell, arrested the 14 health care practitioners in connection to the alleged scheme on Tuesday.

"Selling test referrals for cash is illegal," Fishman said in a release. "Patients have every right to expect their doctors will recommend medical service providers because they do the best job, not because they provide the best bribes."

The defendants were scheduled to appear Tuesday afternoon before Arleo in Newark federal court. Each defendant is charged in a separate complaint.

According the release, OCM allegedly began making the illegal kickback payments as early as 2010. At the end of each calendar month, individuals at OCM allegedly printed patient reports that detailed how many diagnostic tests were referred by each of the defendants. The reports were allegedly used to calculate the payment owed.

The health care practitioners were allegedly paid kickbacks for each Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary diagnostic test referred to OCM. The practitioners were also allegedly paid for referring some privately insured tests.

According to the release, between early October and early December there were 32 separate payments made to or by the 15, with total cash kickbacks of $51,500.

"When physicians take kickbacks that influence how they practice medicine, it has the potential to taint the medical advice and care that is provided to their patients," O’Donnell said in the release. "The audacity of these physicians should offend honest taxpayers, especially at a time when our taxpayer resources are stretched thin."

All of the health care providers charged practice in New Jersey and have offices in Newark, Orange, East Orange, West Orange or Irvington.

Each of the health care practitioners is charged with one count of violating the federal health care program anti-kickback statute by soliciting and receiving bribes, which carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Patel is charged with violating the same statute by offering and paying bribes, which carries the same maximum potential penalty.

Also charged was Maryam Jafari, 41, of Hoboken. Other than Chirag Patel and Castaneda, who is a nurse practitioner, all of the defendants are medical doctors.

Marty Wilson December 14, 2011 at 11:48 PM
we call this a preview to obamacare...welcome to the new reality. actually, medicare fraud is rampant, finding it is like shooting fish in a barrel.
P. J. Mackersie December 15, 2011 at 11:32 PM
The money for the kick backs undoubtedly came from the payments received from Medicare. Also, since OCM was willing to absorb that cost it would mean their charges to Medicare were inflated by that amount. It gets worse because the kickbacks to the doctors encouraged them to perhaps refer patients that may have not needed the tests. All the doctors made money by the process at the expense of the insurance (Medicare). Apart from the statutes suggested above, would this not also be a fereral case of fraud and could it also be a federal felony. I beleive a doctor convicted of a felony would also be subjected to a loss of his or her medical license in addition to any other penalties.
Don December 15, 2011 at 11:39 PM
The real waste comes from the huge "kickbacks" politicians give insurance companies for taking ALL responsibility out of their hands, and the insurance racketeers are rewarded with ERISA 514 (see http://www.google.com/?q=erisa+section+514 and http://www.harp.org ), which makes it almost free money, making it impossible to sue them for even very bad care. Physician gag clauses (google that) silence doctors - they can't tell insured patients about treatments, or they risk delisting. Between the various costs, Americans waste HALF of every healthcare dollar on the insurance companies who add NO value at all!- money that could give everyone in the country all medically necessary, top quality healthcare for free paid for by taxes. It ends up being far cheaper when the government negotiates for drugs and services from a position of strength. Other countries realized this long ago, as you can read on http://www.pnhp.org With the hugely wasteful insurance racket every doctor must spend half their payroll in billing, and insurers figure out ways to dump the sick on the government anyway. We pay the most and we get the least with our medical caste system, for all but the very richest Americans, that means increasingly Third World quality health care. We rate lower and lower all the time.
Celeste December 16, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Thanks Don, very well said. I believe that health insurance should be like buying a plane ticket. Everyone should have free basic health insurance, hence, a coach ticket. If you want to upgrade from the basic, then you pay into your health insurance equivalent to upgrading to business class. Finally, you can also upgrade to a premium healthcare insurance similar to people upgrading to first class. Excuse me if I made this too simple as a concept....
karim aquil sharif March 19, 2012 at 03:50 AM
I WAS DR. LAGRADA PATIENT AT NEWARK COMMUNITY HEALTH CARE CENTER 741 BROADWAY NWK, NJ I AM SHOCKED AT THIS NEWS.

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