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.