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Warren Man Pleads Guilty to Medical Kickback Scheme

Director of testing facility could get as much as five years in prison, will forfeit $89K in illegal proceeds.

A Warren man pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he offered and payed cash kickback payments to doctors who referred patients to an Orange medical testing facility where he served as executive director.

Chirag Patel, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting and receiving illegal cash kickbacks for patient referrals in violation of the federal health care anti-kickback statute, according to a release from New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

Radiology and diagnostic facility Orange Community MRI, of which Patel served as executive director, paid monthly cash kickback payments in exchange for their referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients to OCM for testing services, according to Fishman.

Patel faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. As part of his plea agreement, Patel agreed to forfeit the $89,180 he received as proceeds from the crime, the release said. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi has set sentencing for Feb. 6, according to the release.

Patel  in connection with the scheme. He appeared on the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo and was released on a $750,000 bond. 

More than 65 federal and local agents and officers, led by Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell, arrested 14 health care practitioners in connection to the alleged scheme on Dec. 13, 2011.

Each of the defendants was recorded taking envelopes of cash in exchange for patient referrals, according to the release from Fishman.

Patel is the ninth person charged in the alleged scheme to plead guilty, and is the second member of Orange Community MRI to plead guilty, according to Fishman. Ashokkumar Babaria, the former owner and medical director of the facility, pleaded guilty on Sept. 27.

As part of his guilty plea, Babaria agreed to forfeit revenues traceable to the corrupt referrals, which the government has estimated at as much as $2 million, the release said.

The seven health care providers that referred patients to Orange MRI who have pleaded guilty thus far have collectively agreed to forfeit over $150,000 in illegal kickbacks from Orange MRI, the release said.

The release also gave updates on the other defendants charged in the investigation. According to the release:

  • Jose Castaneda, a nurse practitioner formerly practicing in Newark, pleaded guilty on April 3 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14.
  • Yash Khanna, a doctor practicing in East Orange, was indicted on May 4 by a federal grand jury on one count of accepting kickbacks. A trial date has been set for Dec. 3.
  • Dov Rand, a doctor practicing in West Orange, pleaded guilty on May 18 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 24.
  • Daisy Deguzman, a doctor practicing in Newark, pleaded guilty on June 4 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 25.
  • William Lagrada, another Newark doctor, pleaded guilty on July 11 and is awaiting sentencing.
  • Maryam Jafari, another Newark doctor, was indicted on July 13 by a federal grand jury on one count of accepting kickbacks. On Sept. 14, the same grand jury handed up a superseding indictment against Jafari, charging her with one count of conspiracy and two counts of accepting kickbacks. A trial date has been set for Oct. 22.
  • Chikezie Onyenso, an Irvington doctor, was indicted on Sept. 7 by a federal grand jury on one count of accepting kickbacks. A trial date has been set for Nov. 16.
  • Dinesh Patel, another Newark doctor, pleaded guilty on Sept. 19 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 9.
  • Lucio Cardoso, a North Arlington physician, pleaded guilty on Oct. 10 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 30.
  • Ramesh Kania, an East Orange physician, pleaded guilty on Oct. 12 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 31.

The remaining defendants charged in the investigation are charged in criminal complaints at this time, the release said. One of those previously charged is John Green, 58, of Basking Ridge.

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