Radiologist at Center of N.J. Kickback Case Pleads Guilty

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Ashokkumar Babaria, MD, a 62-year-old radiologist from Moorestown, N.J., has pleaded guilty in Federal Court to overseeing a 3-year-long cash-for-patients scheme that led to indictments for a dozen other doctors, as well as a nurse practitioner and the former executive director of Babaria’s imaging center.

From 2008 to 2011, Babaria paid referring doctors amounts ranging from $25 to $100 per referral to Orange MRI, the diagnostic imaging facility he owned and was medical director of. More expensive tests, such as MRIs, would come with a bigger kickback and some doctors agreed to meet quotas of a certain number of referrals per month in order to earn even more.

The cases are being heard by U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi. Babaria’s sentencing is scheduled for January 30, 2013. He faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. He is defended by Joseph D. Mancano, a partner with the lawfirm Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP, based in Philadephia.

So far, four of the doctors accused of taking kickbacks from Babaria’s Orange MRI have pleaded guilty before Judge Cecchi and a total of nearly $150,000 in illegal kickbacks has been forfeited to the government. The doctors who pleaded guilty are:

  • Daisy Deguzman, MD, a Newark Internal Medicine physician, pleaded guilty on June 4 and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 25.
  • William Lagrada, MD, a Newark Family Medicine physician, pleaded guilty on July 11 and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 17.
  • Dinesh Patel, MD, a Newark Internal Medicine physician, pleaded guilty on September 19 and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 9, 2013.
  • Dov Rand, MD, a West Orange, N.J., physiatrist, pleaded guilty on May 18 and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 24.

In addition Jose Castaneda, a nurse practitioner has also pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 14.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott B. McBride and Joseph G. Mack of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Healthcare and Government Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case. Three other doctors — Yash Khanna, MD; Maryam Jafari, MD; and Chikezie Onyenso, MD — face federal indictments. The remaining six doctors — Lucio Cardoso, MD; Eddie Rosa, MD; John Green, MD; Padma Siripurapu, MD; Ramescha Kania, MD; and Shashi Agarwal, MD — face criminal complaints, as does Chirag Patel, Orange MRI’s former executive director.

Read the DOJ press release.