The New Jersey State Attorney General and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor convicted a Perth Amboy physician of a wide variety of charges all related to an illegal Medicaid fraud kickback scheme.
Dr. Manoj Patharkar, 45, pleaded guilty to charges of criminal conspiracy, money laundering, seven counts of filing fraudulent tax returns, and three counts of failure to pay taxes. His medical practice, Pain Management Associates of Central Jersey, also pleaded guilty to those same charges. In addition to the money laundering and tax charges, Dr. Patharkar pleaded guilty to conspiracy and commercial bribery charges related to the Medicaid fraud kickback scheme.
Dr. Patharkar’s Medicaid and Money Laundering Scheme
According to prosecutors, Patharkar paid kickbacks totaling $1.5 million dollars to 13 physicians. In return for the payments, the doctors referred patients for pain management services.
Kickbacks violate both state and federal law. It is illegal to pay, receive, solicit or offer a kickback or bribe if made to influence or obtain medical services. Medical decisions should always be based on the needs of the patient, not on who offers the most cash.
Because the receipt of bribes is also illegal, the 13 unnamed physicians who received the payments could also face prosecution. (Two chiropractors and an accountant have already pleaded guilty for their role in the scheme.)
If paying kickbacks wasn’t bad enough, Patharkar also laundered money through his practice and didn’t pay taxes. The state says he used the money gained from cheating on his taxes to help fund the payments made to other doctors.
Prosecutors in the Garden State are cracking down on Medicaid fraud and in particular, illegal kickback schemes. Recently the state formed a Commercial Bribery task force designed specifically to target kickbacks in the healthcare industry.
In announcing the conviction of Dr. Patharkar, a spokesperson from the Attorney General’s Office said, “Patharkar not only stole from the state and its honest taxpayers by hiding millions of dollars in income, he crookedly used the money to pay illegal kickbacks to doctors to
refer patients to his pain clinics. We’re coming down hard on this type of corruption in the industry, which causes patients to receive unnecessary services and raises costs for all healthcare consumers”.
The state’s Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, Christopher Iu, echoed those concerns. He said his team will continue “to investigate and hold accountable any healthcare professionals who seek to line their pockets with illegal profits at the expense of patient care.”
Whistleblower Awards for Medicare and Medicaid Fraud
New Jersey and the federal government pay whistleblowers to insiders with information about Medicaid and Medicare fraud. Whistleblowers – called “relators” can receive up to 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoer. It is unknown how much Dr. Patharkar will be ordered to pay.
Prosecutors claim, however, that they will be seeking a sentence of 10 years in prison and say he paid $1.5 million in kickbacks, laundered $3.6 million and evaded $327,000 in state taxes.
How to Report Medicaid Fraud in New Jersey
Insiders with knowledge of healthcare fraud and mismanagement have several choices. They can ignore the greed and fraud going on in front of them, call the government’s toll free hotline or call a lawyer and file a sealed False Claims Act case. Awards paid through hotlines are generally limited to $1000. The large percentage awards are paid through the False Claims Act
Interested in a large award but don’t have a lawyer? The Coalition can help. Call our operators at 888.742.7248. They will have a lawyer call you back with 1 business day. No cost. No obligation.
Lawyers that handle False Claims Act cases generally charge on a success or contingent fee basis. That means no legal fees unless they win the case.
Medicaid fraud costs New Jersey taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Without tips and qui tam lawsuits filed under the False Claims Act, prosecutors and auditors will never be able to catch up.
Whistleblowers provide a valuable public service by alerting authorities to fraud, misconduct and poor patient care. In cases like this, their tips can prevent patients from receiving unneeded or dangerous care.