N.J. mayor pleads not guilty in imaging practice kickback case

The mayor of West New York, Felix Roque, MD, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he accepted bribes in connection with a highly publicized imaging practice kickback scheme in New Jersey.

Roque, who also operates the Pain Relief Center medical practice, was indicted in June for allegedly referring patients to Diagnostic Imaging Affiliates (DIA) in exchange for cash bribes and other kickbacks totaling approximately $250,000, according to New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

This week at the state Superior Court in Hackensack, Roque pleaded not guilty to charges of healthcare claims fraud and bribery, according to a NJ Advance Media report for NJ.com.

Roque’s attorney asked the judge to move quickly to trial given Roque’s position as mayor, and the status conference was set for Sept. 14, according to the report.

The indictment alleges that Roque was involved in the scheme from 2007 to 2012 and received cash and election campaign contributions for referring patients to DIA, which was operated by Rehan “Ray” Zuberi.

Earlier this year, Zuberi pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and he was facing a possible 10 year prison sentence, though a plea deal will cut the amount of time he serves in exchange for helping the state prosecute those who accepted the kickbacks.

Officials have not made clear how much of the scheme-generated money Roque allegedly accepted via campaign contributions. However, campaign finance records cited by NJ Advance Media show a total of $5,500 in official contributions made by Zuberi or his company leading up to Roque’s two mayoral elections in 2011 and 2015.

Roque’s lawyer said any donations are not evidence of a special relationship with the mayor, according to NJ Advance Media.