Thirteen New Jersey doctors and a nurse practitioner were arrested Dec. 13 and charged for allegedly taking illegal kickbacks to refer patients to Orange Community MRI (OCM) in Orange, N.J. The arrests came on the heels of the arrest of OCM's executive director on Dec. 8.
More than 65 federal and local agents and officers led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) arrested the 14 healthcare practitioners to whom OCM allegedly paid monthly cash kickbacks in exchange for referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients, according to a statement from New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell.
“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,” said Fishman. “There is no room in the federal healthcare system for those who see a person in need of care as an opportunity to make an extra buck on the side.”
OCM’s executive director, Chirag Patel, was arrested on Dec. 8 in connection with the alleged kickbacks, and was later released on a $750,000 bond. The defendants arrested Dec. 13 were scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court.
According to the complaints filed, OCM began making illegal kickback payments as early as 2010. At the end of each month, individuals at OCM allegedly printed patient reports on the number of diagnostic tests referred to the facility by each of the defendants and those reports were used to calculate the payment owed to each defendant.
Between October and early December 2011, there were 32 separate payments made to or by the 15 defendants currently charged in connection with the alleged scheme, with total cash kickbacks of $51,500, according to the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.
All of the charged healthcare providers practice in New Jersey, with offices in Newark, Orange, East Orange, West Orange or Irvington.
Each of the healthcare practitioners is charged with one count of violating the federal healthcare 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.