YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: West New York Mayor Felix Roque pocketed nearly $250,000 in bribes and other kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to a Boonton man who operated a network of diagnostic imaging centers in Hackensack, Englewood and elsewhere in New Jersey, an indictment returned by a state grand jury in Trenton today alleges.
The 59-year-old Roque, who operates the Pain Relief Center medical practice in West New York, is charged with healthcare claims fraud and commercial bribery, among other counts, state Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said this afternoon.
Roque “put his personal wealth and political career ahead of his patients’ needs,” Hoffman said.
From 2007 to 2012, the attorney general said, Roque referred patients needing MRI and CT scans to medical diagnostic imaging centers controlled by Rehan Zuberi in exchange for cash and election campaign contributions.
Zuberi — who with his wife last month admitted paying physicians for patient referrals to their testing facilities — delivered money to Roque on a monthly basis — and made several payments to Roque at the mayor’s office in West New York Town Hall, the attorney general said.
Zuberi, 46, and Humara Paracha, 39, on May 11 admitted that they paid thousands — in amounts of $50 to $150 — to have doctors refer patients to their Diagnostic Imaging Affiliates centers for tests, even if they were unnecessary.
Zuberi pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy to commit bribery.
Paracha, a DIA co-owner and president, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy.
Roque was acquitted by a federal jury of computer hacking charges in October 2013.
The state charges stem from an investigation dubbed “Operation RayScam.”
More than a dozen search warrants were executed last June by more than 100 investigators at radiology centers controlled by Zuberi in Hackensack, Englewood, Jersey City and elsewhere, as well as at Zuberi’s 9,000-square-foot mansion, his father’s Middlesex County home and another private residence.
Authorities seized more than more than $100,000 cash from Zuberi, as well as high-end Lamborghinis, Ferraris and other sports car, and placed liens on his home and imaging equipment.
Two orthopedic surgeons — one from Franklin Lakes and the other from Hackensack — were among seven doctors charged with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from Zuberi. READ MORE….
“A New Jerseyan who carries medical insurance will at some point be both a consumer of insurance and a medical patient and it is our job to make certain they are treated fairly in both contexts,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi. “We can do that by eliminating the corrupt practices that have spread to portions of the healthcare industry.”
Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Chief Deputy Attorney General Peter Sepulveda and Deputy Attorney General Crystal Callahan presented the case to the grand jury.
Detective Anthony Correll coordinated the investigation with assistance from Detectives Jason Volpe, Yevgeny Gershman and Kevin Gannon.
Hoffman said they worked closely with Special Agent William Makar from the Division of Taxation. Analyst Terri Drumm of the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor assisted in the investigation, he said.
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