14 providers arrested in alleged referral kickback scheme

An alleged kickback scheme has resulted in the arrest of 14 New Jersey healthcare practitioners this week, the Wyckoff Patch reports. The providers, including 13 physicians and one nurse practitioner, allegedly received monthly kickbacks dating back to 2010 for referring Medicare and Medicaid patients to Orange Community MRI (OCM) for testing services.

OCM's executive director, Chirag Patel, also was arrested and released on bond. He is charged with violating the federal healthcare program anti-kickback statute by offering and paying bribes, HealthImaging reports. This offense carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

According to reports, between early October and early December, there were 32 separate payments made to or by the 15 involved in the alleged scheme, with total cash kickbacks of $51,500.

Each of the healthcare practitioners, scheduled to appear in Newark federal court, is charged with one count of violating the same statute by soliciting and receiving bribes, which carries the same maximum potential penalty.

The investigation involved more than 65 federal and local agents and officers, led by the Office of Inspector General. Comments from New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman were especially harsh toward the providers.

"Patients have every right to expect their doctors will recommend medical service providers because they do the best job, not because they provide the best bribes," Fishman said. "There is no room in the federal healthcare system for those who see a person in need of care as an opportunity to make an extra buck on the side."

To learn more:
- read the article from the Wyckoff Patch
- see the article from HealthImaging