NJ Doctor Pleads Guilty In Cash-For-Patients Scheme

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and Post Office in Newark (Photo credit: Jim Henderson)

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and Post Office in Newark (Photo credit: Jim Henderson)

NEWARK– Dinesh Patel, a New Jersey doctor practicing in Newark, pleaded guilty today to participating in a cash-for-patients scheme with a diagnostic facility in Orange and agreed to pay back thousands of dollars in bribe money he received in the past two years, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Patel, 58, of Livingston, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to one count of violating the federal healthcare program anti-kickback statute. Patel will forfeit $7,600 he received in kickbacks during the years 2010 and 2011.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Dec.13, 2011, Patel was arrested and charged with accepting cash kickback payments from Orange Community MRI (“Orange MRI”), a diagnostic facility, in exchange for his referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients. Also on Dec. 13, 2011, 12 other New Jersey doctors and one nurse practitioner were arrested and charged in separate complaints with accepting similar cash kickback payments from Orange MRI. According to the complaints, each of the defendants were recorded taking envelopes of cash in exchange for patient referrals. On Dec. 8, 2011, an Orange MRI executive was arrested and charged in a separate complaint in connection with his participation in the scheme.

Patel is the fifth person arrested in the Dec. 13 takedown to plead guilty. In all, the five defendants who have pleaded guilty thus far accepted nearly $150,000 in illegal kickbacks from Orange MRI.

Starting in 2010, Orange MRI began making monthly cash kickback payments to Patel in exchange for his referral of patients to Orange MRI for diagnostic tests. At the end of each calendar month, individuals at Orange MRI printed patient reports that detailed how many magnetic resonance imagings (“MRIs”) and computed axial tomographies (“CAT Scans”) were referred by Patel. These patient reports were used to calculate the monthly kickback payment owed to Patel. Pursuant to Patel’s agreement with Orange MRI, he was paid kickbacks for each Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary MRI or CAT Scan referred to Orange MRI.

Patel received two separate payments from a cooperating government witness during the course of the investigation. On Nov. 4, 2011, Patel accepted $500 in cash for his September 2011 referrals to Orange MRI; he accepted another $600 in cash on Nov. 17, 2011, for his October 2011 referrals to Orange MRI.

Cecchi continued Patel on bail pending sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 9, 2013. Patel faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Fishman credited special agents with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

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