California imaging center manager sentenced to 5 years for kickback scheme

The officer manager of San Diego-based Advanced Radiology was sentenced to five years in prison for a scheme that paid referring physicians for patient referrals, the San Diego District Attorney’s office announced June 17.

Gonzalo Paredes, 63, was convicted of 51 felony counts for his role in the “largest healthcare insurance fraud scheme in the history of San Diego,” which was dubbed Operation Backlash, according to a statement from the San Diego DA.

“Unwitting patients were treated simply as opportunities for criminals to bill insurance companies by these defendants, “ said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan in the statement. “Kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals are illegal because they influence and cloud a doctor’s judgement. The relationship between a doctor and a patient should be about the patient’s health and not the doctor’s wealth."

Ronald Grusd, MD, who owns Advanced Radiology, and Paredes paid more than $225,000 in kickbacks to a San Diego-based chiropractor in exchange for patient referrals. The imaging center billed insurance companies more than $5 million over the duration of the scheme. Grusd was previously convicted of 39 federal counts and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“We have closed this chapter on the largest healthcare fraud case in San Diego’s history thanks to the hard work of our investigators and the District Attorney’s Office,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Paredes will be held accountable for his crimes, and should serve as a warning to others that we will do everything within our power to bring justice to those who put cash before patient care.”