Doc pleads guilty to taking kickbacks from MRI center

A New Jersey physician has pleaded guilty to charges related to a federal investigation into a diagnostic testing center. According to an article on NorthJersey.com, Lucio Cardoso, who has a geriatric and internal medicine practice in Newark, admitted in federal court this month that he accepted cash kickbacks from Orange (N.J.) Community MRI in exchange for patient referrals. He is the seventh person to plead guilty in the kickback scheme.

From March 2010 to December 2011, the MRI center paid Cardoso $75 for each Medicare or Medicaid patient he referred for an MRI, as well as $50 for a CT scan and $25 for an ultrasound, according to NorthJersey.com. Cardoso faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison when he is sentenced in January, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Five other individuals, all healthcare providers, also have pleaded guilty to referring patients to Orange MRI in exchange for kickbacks. Northjersey.com reported that the former director of Orange MRI agreed to forfeit the income from the illegal referrals, which could amount to as much as $2 million.

Last December, the Star-Ledger reported that 14 physicians were charged with taking bribes to send business to Orange Community MRI. At the time, authorities said it was unclear how much money exchanged hands in the kickback scheme, but that over from October 2011 through December 2011, 32 payments were made totaling $51,500.

Meanwhile, in Florida, a whistleblower case that alleges that Florida Hospital in Orlando and six affiliates knowingly overbilled Medicare millions of dollars for radiology services now has expanded to include the hospital's emergency departments, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

According to the newspaper, an amended complaint against Adventist Health System, the hospitals' owners, alleges that billing fraud occurred in the emergency departments between 2001 and 2008, and perhaps longer.

The original complaint was filed in 2010 and alleged that Florida Hospital used improper coding to overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare for radiology services between 1995 and 2009.

That original complaint alleged that Florida Hospital overbilled for Octreotide, a drug used during MRI procedures, by billing for larger doses than were actually administered. In addition, the hospital is alleged to have billed for computer-aided detection analyses that were never performed.

For more:
- read the NorthJersey.com article
- see the article in the Newark Star Ledger
- read the article in the Orlando Sentinel

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