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Feds In NJ Charge Rockland Doc, Wife With $1.3M Genetic Testing Scheme

In the end, Medicare was billed more than $1.3 million.
In the end, Medicare was billed more than $1.3 million. Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute (@nci) on Unsplash

COVID-19 hardly fazed a Rockland doctor who, with his wife, continued to collect bribes and kickbacks in exchange for ordering millions of dollars in genetic tests from his offices in Pennsylvania, a federal grand jury in Newark charged.

Yitzchok “Barry” Kurtzer, 61,and Robin Kurtzer, 60, both of Monsey, collected monthly cash kickbacks and bribes ranging in exchange for “collecting DNA samples from Medicare patients and sending them for genetic tests to clinical laboratories in New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” Acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Rachael Honig said.

The payoffs ranged up $5,000, she said.

At one point, the couple "complained that they were not getting paid enough and negotiated for higher kickbacks and bribes," Honig said.

Yitzchok Kurtzer, who operated separate offices in the Scranton, PA, area that his wife helped manage, recruited employees for the scheme, the U.S. attorney said.

Already pleading guilty to various related charges were Lee Besen, of Waverly, PA, Kimberly Schmidt, of Moscow, PA, and Amber Harris and Shanelyn Kennedy, both of Scranton, PA. Sentencings for all four remain on hold in case any has agreed to testify against the Kurtzers.

The Kurtzers were recorded receiving and discussing the payments, Honig said, without identifying how investigators obtained the recordings.

After accepting one $5,000 kickback, she said, Yitzchok Kurtzer counted the money and said: “Perfect. Didn’t short me.”

Robin Kurtzer, meanwhile, was recorded admitting that Harris and Kennedy shouldn't have been “bribed” to do their work but also said had no trouble “giving them money” as long as they produced results, the U.S. attorney said.

At one point her husband told staffers to stop collecting genetic test swabs when he missed receiving a bribe or kickback, then increased the volume when these resumed, she said.

"Even as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic substantially reduced in-patient visits, the Kurtzers continued their scheme," Honig said. "They went from receiving hand-delivered cash kickbacks and bribes to accepting payments by wire and through a cell phone money-transfer app."

In the end, she said, Medicare was billed more than $1.3 million.

An indictment returned this week in U.S. District Court in Newark charges the Kurtzers with various counts for participating in a scheme to solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes in exchange for ordering genetic tests, Honig said.

Yitzchok Kurtzer is also charged with health care fraud related to the kickback scheme.

Honig credited special agents of the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation in Newark the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General in Philadelphia. She also thanked the FBI Scranton Field Office and Philadelphia Division and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office for their assistance.

Handling the case for the government is Acting Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua L. Haber of her Health Care Fraud Unit in the Criminal Division in Newark.

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