Edison Cardiologist Admits Taking Cash Kickbacks

NEWARK – An Edison cardiologist admitted referring patients for diagnostic testing in exchange for cash kickbacks as part of a cash-for-patients scheme with a diagnostic facility in Orange, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced Thursday.

On Feb. 14, Shashi Agarwal, 60, of Edison, who has his own cardiology practice in East Orange, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court to one count of soliciting and receiving more than $100,000 in cash kickbacks in violation of the federal health care anti-kickback statute.

Agarwal is the 10th person to plead guilty in the government’s investigation into the scheme to pay cash to health care providers who referred patients to Orange Community MRI, LLC (Orange MRI) in Orange  for diagnostic testing.

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

From early 2009 through December, 2011, Orange MRI paid Agarwal for each MRI and CAT scan he referred. According to Agarwal, Orange MRI gave him $100 cash for each Medicare or Medicaid patient he referred for an MRI. Agarwal also received $50 for each CAT scan referral. Agarwal also admitted that he agreed to refer as many as 20 MRIs to Orange MRI each month. Agarwal agreed to forfeit $101,750 in bribe money.

Agarwal identified two occasions on which he was paid kickbacks. On Oct. 11, 2011, Agarwal received $2,600 in cash from a government informant at Salvadoreño restaurant in Elizabeth in exchange for MRI and CAT scan referrals. On Nov. 10, 2011, at his office in East Orange, Agarwal received another kickback for patient referrals of $2,500 in cash.

Agarwal was one of 12 doctors and one nurse practitioner arrested Dec. 13, 2011, and charged with accepting cash kickback payments.

The anti-kickback charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for June 6.

Eight of those who pleaded guilty have agreed to forfeit $279,690 in illegal cash kickbacks from Orange MRI. The two other defendants, Ashokkumar Babaria, Orange MRI’s former medical director, and Chirag Patel, Orange MRI’s former executive director, have agreed to forfeit their gains. Babaria agreed to forfeit revenues traceable to corrupt referrals, which the government estimates could reach as much as $2 million. Patel agreed to forfeit $89,180.

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