NEWARK – An Edison cardiologist was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for 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.
Shashi Agarwal, 61, who had his own cardiology practice in East Orange, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to an information charging him with one count of soliciting and receiving more than $100,000 in cash kickbacks in violation of the federal health care anti-kickback statute. Cecchi imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
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 admitted that he agreed to refer as many as 20 MRIs to Orange MRI each month.
During his plea proceeding, 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.
In addition to the prison term, Cecchi sentenced Agarwal to two years of supervised release and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service. At his plea hearing, Agarwal also agreed to forfeit $101,750 in bribe money.
The investigation ultimately led to the arrest of and charges against 15 individuals, including those arrested in December 2011. Of those charged, 12 have pleaded guilty to date.
Daisy Deguzman, a doctor practicing in Newark, was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement on Jan. 31. Dov Rand, a doctor practicing in West Orange, was sentenced to five months in prison and five months of home confinement on Feb.13. Rameshcha Kania, an East Orange, doctor, was sentenced to three months in prison and three months of home confinement on June 24. Lucio Cardoso, a North Arlington, doctor, was sentenced to four months in prison and four months of home confinement on June 25. The defendants were also ordered to forfeit their illegal gains.
Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell, as well as criminal and civil investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence.
As for the defendants with charges pending as a result of this investigation, they are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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