West New York mayor indicted as N.J. imaging kickback investigation continues

Authorities investigating a kickback scheme involving a New Jersey radiology group have caught another physician in their dragnet, one that also happens to be mayor of a town sitting across the Hudson River from New York City.

West New York Mayor Felix Roque, MD, who also operates the Pain Relief Center medical practice, was indicted for referring patients to Diagnostic Imaging Affiliates (DIA) in exchange for cash bribes and other kickbacks, according to New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.

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. In total, authorities allege Roque was paid approximately $250,000.

“By allegedly taking approximately a quarter-million dollars in bribes, Mayor Roque put his personal wealth and political career ahead of his patients’ needs,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman in a statement. “As evidenced by this multi-phased prosecution, we are intent upon ensuring that a medical practitioner’s professional opinion is not for sale in New Jersey and that all medical advice is given with only a patient’s best interests in mind.”

Roque is the latest in a line of Zuberi associates to be targeted for their involvement in the kickback scheme. Zuberi himself was arrested in June 2014, and last fall seven other practitioners were arrested. Last month, Zuberi pleaded guilty to first-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity and second-degree conspiracy to commit commercial bribery. He faces a possible 10 years in prison, though a plea deal offers him the chance to trim that sentence by six months for every five kickback-accepting doctors he helps the state to prosecute.