NEWARK, N.J. – A radiologist who owned and operated a diagnostic testing center in Orange, N.J., was sentenced today to 46 months in prison and ordered to forfeit more than $2 million for overseeing a sprawling cash-for-patients scheme to bribe doctors for testing referrals, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ashokkumar Babaria, 64, of Moorestown, N.J., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to an information charging him with one count of offering and paying doctors and other health care providers illegal cash kickbacks for patient referrals in violation of the federal health care anti-kickback statute. Judge Cecchi imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Babaria, then a licensed radiologist, was the medical director and owner of Orange Community MRI LLC (Orange MRI). The facility provided diagnostic testing services, such as MRIs, CAT Scans, ultrasounds, echocardiograms and dual-emission X-ray absorptiometries, known as “DEXA Scans.” From 2008 through 2011, Orange MRI made nearly $2 million in corrupt revenues from Medicare and Medicaid billings for tests performed on patients who were referred to Orange MRI by doctors who were paid cash kickbacks for those referrals.
Babaria negotiated, approved and paid kickbacks to physicians for each diagnostic test referred and provided cash to his subordinates to do the same. During his guilty plea proceeding, Babaria admitted to several specific acts, including his 2009 approvals of kickback arrangements to pay one doctor roughly $100 for each of his MRI referrals and another doctor $75 for each MRI referral and $25 for each ultrasound or DEXA scan referral.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Cecchi sentenced Babaria to three years of supervised release, ordered him to forfeit $2,014,601 and fined him $25,000.
To date, 17 individuals have been convicted as a result of the investigation. Including Babaria, 15 people have pleaded guilty and two doctors were convicted at trial: Chikenzie Onyenso, 55, of Randolph, N.J., on Oct. 15, 2013, and Maryam Jafari, 43, of Hoboken, on Feb. 4, 2014.
Fourteen health care providers have agreed to forfeit a total of $370,960 in illegal kickbacks. Former Orange MRI executive director Chirag Patel, 38, of Warren, N.J., agreed to forfeit an additional $89,180 in corrupt gains.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell, as well as criminal investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, for the investigation.
The government is represented by Deputy Chief Scott B. McBride of the U.S. Attorney’s Economic Crimes Unit and Deputy Chief Joseph G. Mack of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reorganized the health care fraud practice at the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office shortly after taking office, including creating a stand-alone Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since 2010, the office has recovered more than $535 million in health care fraud and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and other statutes.