A Livingston resident pleaded guilty on Wednesday to using his internal medicine practice to participate in a cash-for-patients scheme with a diagnostic facility in Orange, N.J. Dr. Dinesh Patel, 58, agreed to pay back thousands of dollars in bribe money he received in the past two years, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Patel was arrested in December 2011 and charged with one count of violating the federal healthcare program anti-kickback statute. He was one of 13 doctors arrested that day accused of accepting cash kickback payments from Orange Community MRI, a diagnostic facility, in exchange for his referral of Medicare and Medicaid patients. As part of his guilty plea, Patel will pay back $7,600 he received in kickbacks during the years 2010 and 2011.
On Dec. 13, 2011, Patel and 12 other New Jersey doctors and one nurse practitioner were arrested and charged with accepting similar cash kickback payments from Orange MRI. Each of the defendants was recorded taking envelopes of cash in exchange for patient referrals. On Dec. 8, 2011, an Orange MRI executive was arrested and charged with participating in the scheme.
Patel is the fifth doctor to plead guilty in connection with the scheme. In all, the five defendants who have pleaded guilty thus far accepted nearly $150,000 in illegal kickbacks from Orange MRI.
Starting in 2010, Orange MRI began making monthly cash kickback payments to Patel in exchange for his referral of patients to Orange MRI for diagnostic tests. At the end of each month, individuals at Orange MRI printed patient reports that detailed how many MRIs and CAT Scans were referred by Patel. These patient reports were used to calculate the monthly kickback payment owed to Patel. Patel’s agreement with Orange MRI also called for him to be paid kickbacks for each Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary MRI or CAT Scan referred to Orange MRI.
Patel received two payments from a cooperating government witness during the course of the investigation. On Nov. 4, 2011, Patel accepted $500 in cash for his September 2011 referrals to Orange MRI; he accepted another $600 in cash on Nov. 17, 2011, for his October 2011 referrals to Orange MRI.
Patel remains on bail pending sentencing from U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi. He faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. Judge Cecchi set sentencing for Jan. 9, 2013.