Having won reelection last month, West New York Mayor Felix Roque now faces another challenge: indictment by the state.
According to prosecutors, Roque, a medical doctor, is accused of referring patients to the medical imaging company Diagnostic Imaging Affiliates in exchange for cash bribes and election campaign contributions.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced that Roque referred patients to the medical imaging company Diagnostic Imaging Affiliates in exchange for cash bribes and other kickbacks.
The 59-year-old Roque, who operates the Pain Relief Center medical practice in West New York, was indicted by a state grand jury on three charges: second-degree healthcare claims fraud, second-degree commercial bribery and third-degree running.
The indictment alleges that from 2007 to 2012, Roque participated in a scheme by which he agreed to refer patients needing MRI and CT scans to medical diagnostic imaging centers controlled by Rehan Zuberi in exchange for cash and election campaign contributions. Zuberi allegedly delivered cash kickbacks to Roque on a monthly basis and made several payments to Roque at the mayor’s office in West New York Town Hall. Zuberi and his associates allegedly paid Roque approximately $250,000.
Zuberi, 46, of Boonton, pleaded guilty last month to charges that he led a criminal enterprise that paid several million dollars of bribes and kickbacks to dozens of doctors from 2008 to 2014. The plea agreement calls for Zuberi to receive a 10-year state prison sentence with a four-year non-parole eligibility stipulation.
“By allegedly taking approximately a quarter-million dollars in bribes, Mayor Roque put his personal wealth and political career ahead of his patients’ needs,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “As evidenced by this multi-phased prosecution, we are intent upon ensuring that a medical practitioner’s professional opinion is not for sale in New Jersey and that all medical advice is given with only a patient’s best interests in mind.”
“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.”
The charges announced today are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000.
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. 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.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi noted that important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at www.NJInsurancefraud.org. State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.
The report says that “Rehan Zuberi, who ran Diagnostic Imaging Affiliates, pleaded guilty last month to charges that he led a criminal enterprise that paid several million dollars of bribes and kickbacks to dozens of doctors from 2008 to 2014. Zuberi and his associates allegedly paid Roque approximately $250,000.”
If the report is true, it marks a second indictment for Roque, who beat federal computer hacking charges in his first term and then survived a 2015 challenge by former ally Commissioner Count Wiley with the support of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).