The guilty plea is the second to be taken by the Attorney General’s Commercial Bribery Task Force, which was formed in January to target commercial bribery in the healthcare industry. The task force includes deputy attorneys general and investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.
Dr. Alexander Dimeo, 61, of Budd Lake, N.J., and Fort Myers, Fla., pleaded guilty today to two separate accusations before Superior Court Judge Michael A. Toto in Middlesex County. Dimeo retired last year, but he formerly operated Passaic Chiropractic & Therapy Center PC in Passaic. Dimeo pleaded guilty to an accusation filed by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau charging him with second-degree conspiracy, second-degree money laundering, second-degree commercial bribery, three counts of third-degree commercial bribery, and third-degree failure to pay taxes. In addition, he pleaded guilty to an accusation filed by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor charging him with a single count of third-degree conspiracy.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Dimeo be sentenced to up to seven years in state prison on the first accusation, and up to four years on the accusation filed by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, with the sentences to run concurrently. He must pay an anti-money laundering penalty of up to $250,000 and restitution to the state for any taxes he owes for kickbacks not reported on his tax returns. Sentencing is scheduled for August 22.
The charges are the result of an ongoing investigation into doctors who allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal kickbacks in return for providing patient referrals worth millions of dollars to other doctors and medical service providers. This investigation stems from two earlier investigations:
an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau that led to the indictment in August 2015 of Dr. Manoj Patharkar and Mohammed Shamshair on charges that they hid and laundered approximately $3.6 million in income from the doctor’s pain management clinics to evade taxes, and
Shamshair pleaded guilty on Feb. 1 to conspiring with Patharkar in the alleged money laundering schemes and using money that they laundered to pay up to $1.5 million in kickbacks to doctors on behalf of Patharkar. He also pleaded guilty to paying over $200,000 in kickbacks on behalf of Zuberi.
“Investigating these healthcare-related bribes is like peeling away the layers of a rotten onion: each new layer reveals more doctors and medical service providers who are profiting from these illicit schemes,” said Acting Attorney General Lougy. “We must stop this corrupt conduct, which leads to improper diagnostic services and treatments and which ultimately results in higher medical and insurance costs for all of us.”
“Our new commercial bribery task force will aggressively pursue every lead to identify crooked healthcare providers and those who assist them in these illegal kickback schemes,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about this type of bribery to contact us confidentially.”
“Doctors who use their patients as pawns in their corruption of the insurance system are a cancer on the entire healthcare system,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “The Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor will continue to work hand-in-hand with the Division of Criminal Justice to ensure that everyone who has played a part in these criminal activities is rooted out and held accountable for their actions.”
The Division of Criminal Justice has a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities confidentially. The public also can log on to the Division webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
Deputy Attorneys General T.J. Harker and Jillian Carpenter took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Crystal Callahan took the guilty plea for the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.
In pleading guilty, Dimeo admitted that between 2009 and 2015, he received approximately $254,500 in illegal kickbacks for patient referrals. With respect to the accusation filed by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, he admitted that he received approximately $26,900 in kickbacks for patients he referred to MRI centers owned by Zuberi, particularly Medical & Molecular Imaging of Wayne.
With respect to the accusation filed by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, he admitted that he received approximately $56,300 in kickbacks that were delivered by Shamshair in payment for patients referred to Patharkar’s pain management clinics. He admitted that he received a total of $8,400 from Dr. Gautam Sehgal, 52, of Livington, N.J., a neurologist with practices in Newark, Perth Amboy, Clifton, Elizabeth, South Orange and Paterson. The Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor filed an indictment on Feb. 5 charging Sehgal with seven counts of second-degree health care claims fraud for allegedly submitting fraudulent bills to insurers. Sehgal also was charged with second-degree insurance fraud and third-degree theft by deception. Those charges are pending.
The balance of about $162,900 in kickbacks addressed by the accusation filed by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau allegedly came from another doctor and two other persons with interests in medical practices or imaging centers. Those three individuals who allegedly paid Dimeo kickbacks are not identified in the accusation.
Deputy Attorney General Harker, Deputy Attorney General Carpenter, Lt. Lisa Shea, Detective John Campanella, Detective John Neggia, Detective Kimberly Allen, and Analyst Rita Gillis are conducting and coordinating the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Michael A. Monahan and Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa. Deputy Attorney General Callahan, Deputy Attorney General Colin Keiffer, Lt. Anthony Butler, Detective Anthony Correll, Detective Wendy Berg, Detective Grace Rocca, and Analyst Bethany Schussler are conducting and coordinating the investigation for the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, under the Supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Sepulveda of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Additional assistance was provided by Supervising Criminal Forensic Auditor Debra Lewaine and Criminal Forensic Auditor Michael Birnie both of the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Criminal Investigation.
On Feb. 1, Shamshair, 52, of Sayreville, pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree conspiracy and money laundering. He admitted his role in the criminal schemes charged in the Patharkar indictment, which allegedly enabled Patharkar to evade about $327,000 in state taxes by fabricating the existence of employee payroll and wage expenses totaling over $2.1 million and by diverting over $1.4 million in checks written for medical services provided by his businesses into personal bank accounts. Shamshair also pleaded guilty to two accusations charging him with second-degree conspiracy to commit commercial bribery, admitting he paid cash kickbacks totaling up to $1.5 million on behalf of Patharkar to 13 doctors, and admitting he paid over $200,000 in kickbacks on behalf of Zuberi to 10 doctors.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Shamshair be sentenced to eight years in state prison. He is awaiting sentencing. The Aug. 24, 2015 indictment charging Shamshair also named Patharkar, 45, of South Amboy, and his corporations, Pain Management Associates of Central Jersey and Prospect Pain Management Associates. Dr. Patharkar faces pending charges that include, among others, conspiracy (1st degree), two counts of money laundering (1st degree), theft by deception (2nd degree) and multiple counts of filing fraudulent tax returns and failure to pay taxes (all 3rd degree). The charges are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In May 2015, another associate of Patharkar, Irfan Raza, 45, of Valley Stream, N.Y., pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy for providing personal identifiers for the phantom employees that allegedly were used by Patharkar to evade taxes and launder money. Raza, a certified public accountant, is awaiting sentencing.
In Operation Rayscam, Zuberi, 47, of Boonton, N.J., pleaded guilty in May 2015 to first-degree money laundering and second-degree conspiracy to commit commercial bribery. Under the plea agreement, the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor will recommend that he be sentenced to 10 years in state prison, including four years of parole ineligibility. He is awaiting sentencing. Since Zuberi’s guilty plea, the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor has obtained indictments charging six medical practitioners, including the mayor of West New York, Dr. Felix Roque, with taking bribes for referring patients to Zuberi’s medical imaging centers. The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.