Another cardiologist settles in N.J. kickback case for $1.4M

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Another N.J. cardiologist settles in ongoing kickback scheme. Source: Golden West College  

A New Jersey cardiologist who pleaded guilty to accepting high-paying kickbacks from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark in return for patient referrals agreed Monday to pay $1.4 million to settle separate civil fraud charges.

Bakul Desai, 55, of Livingston, N.J., was hired in 2003 as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), despite having no research credentials. According to the Star-Ledger, he agreed to pay back two and a half times the salary he received, for fraudulently exploiting a program at UMDNJ's University Hospital that had been designed to bring in more cardiac surgery patients, federal prosecutors said.

The charges against Desai and others were initially part of a two-year criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office that has implicated more than a dozen other part-time cardiologists and several UMDNJ administrators.

The kickback scheme, which involved keeping private cardiologists on staff while providing no services in return to the university, was part of an effort to shore up a failing cardiac surgery program that was on state probation at the time, according to court records and reports by a federal monitor.

Desai entered a guilty plea in February to criminal embezzlement charges.

Since the scandal was exposed, four cardiologists have settled their cases, and officials have filed two lawsuits related to the program, said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.

Prosecutors have said that they are continuing their investigation of others.