N.J. MRI center director pleads guilty in cash-for-patients scheme

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 - Gavel and stethoscope

The former executive director of Orange Community MRI in Orange, N.J., has admitted paying bribes to physicians since April 2008 and agreed to forfeit $89,000 in proceeds from the crime, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced Oct. 16.

Chirag Patel plead guilty to one count of soliciting and receiving illegal cash kickbacks for patient referrals in violation of the federal healthcare anti-kickback statute.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

  • On Dec. 8, 2011, Patel was arrested and charged with offering and paying cash kickbacks to a New Jersey healthcare practitioner in exchange for referrals to Orange Community MRI. On Dec. 13, 2011, 13 New Jersey doctors and one nurse practitioner were arrested and charged in separate complaints with accepting similar cash kickback payments from Orange MRI. Each of the defendants was recorded taking envelopes of cash in exchange for patient referrals.
  • Patel is the ninth person charged in the December 2011 takedown to plead guilty. Patel is the second member of Orange Community MRI to plead guilty; Ashokkumar Babaria, the former owner and medical director of Orange Community MRI, plead guilty on Sept. 27.
  • As part of his plea agreement, Patel agreed to forfeit $89,180 that constitutes criminal proceeds of the crime. As part of his guilty plea, Ashokkumar Babaria agreed to forfeit his revenues traceable to corrupt referrals, which the government has estimated could reach as much as $2 million. The seven healthcare providers that referred patients to Orange Community MRI who have plead guilty thus far have collectively agreed to forfeit more than $150,000 in illegal kickbacks from Orange MRI.

Patel faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison a fine of $250,000, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.