The Department of Justice recently made 14 arrests related to an extremely lucrative illegal healthcare kickback scheme operated out of New Jersey. During a short two-month undercover investigation, authorities recorded at least 32 illegal kickbacks being paid out to various medical professionals. The payments ranged from $200 to $5,820 and were handed out on a monthly basis, totaling approximately $51,500. At the center of the fraudulent activity is a radiology and diagnostic imaging facility, Orange Community MRI.
Dr. Dov Rand, a New Jersey physiatrist, was delivered a large white envelope that contained a check for $920. The money inside was his kickback reward for referring patients to Orange Community MRI during the month of October. Dr. Rand allegedly accepted another illegal kickback payment of $470 for referring Medicare or Medicaid patients to Orange Community for MRI tests.
What Dr. Rand was unaware of was the fact he was being recorded by a cooperating witness who was posing as an Orange Community MRI employee.
“My allegiance is to you,” Dr. Rand is caught on tape saying to the undercover witness.
In fact, Dr. Rand allegedly boasted to the undercover witness that his recent appearance on an episode of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” would help him to provide Orange Community MRI with even more referrals.
Dr. Rand certainly wasn’t the only one participating in the illegal kickback scheme. In November, Dr. Maryam Jafari was also provided a large white envelope that contained $420. Just like Rand, Dr. Jafari was receiving his monthly kickback from Orange Community MRI. During this particular meeting, however, Dr. Jafari also was presented with a list of the patients she had referred to Orange Community in exchange for a total of $2,385.
“I will try to keep you very busy,” Dr. Jafari is heard saying on the undercover witness’ recording.
In order to bust up the illegal kickback scheme, federal authorities had to recruit a multitude of witnesses to wear a wire and record their conversations with the physicians and Orange Community’s executive director, Chirag Patel. According to United States Attorney Paul Fishman, over 65 federal and local agents and officers were involved in this bust.
Details of the Fraud
According to Fishman’s office, Orange Community MRI began paying out illegal kickbacks in 2010 at the latest. At the end of each month, employees from the facility allegedly printed out detailed patient reports for each physician which included how many patients they had referred.
The amount of money each physician was paid varied a great deal, allegedly depending upon the type of imaging service they ordered and the kind of insurance the patient had.
“Some of the doctors were only paid for MRI and CAT scan referrals, while other defendants also were paid for the referral of ultrasounds, echocardiograms, and dual-emission X-ray absorptiometry,” read the press release provided by Fishman’s office.
The Additional Charges
Orange Community MRI executive director, Chirag Patel, was arrested and charged with bribery. According to court documentation, a cooperating witness explained how various kickback payments were doled out for different tests that were conducted in October. Patel allegedly told the witness that he would like to increase the number of ultrasounds that were being referred to him.
“Look, Doctor, end of the day, you and me are businessmen,” Patel allegedly said. “You want to make sure we both are happy.”
“It is illegal for medical professionals to sell referrals for cash,” US Attorney Fishman said. “There is no room in the federal health care system for those who see a person who needs care as an opportunity to make an extra buck.”
During the two-month investigation, Dr. William Lagrada, a Newark physician, was recorded while being given two separate illegal kickbacks that totaled $11,240.
Jose Castaneda, a nurse practitioner who also practiced in Newark, allegedly received two payments of $8,120, according to court papers.
Other defendants in this illegal kickback case include the following medical professionals:
- Shashi Agarwal
- Lucio Cardoso
- Daisy Deguzman
- John Green
- Ramescha Kania
- Eddie Rosa
- Dinesh Patel
- Padma Siripurapu
- Yash Khanna
- Chikezie Onyenso