NEWARK, N.J. â€“ A physicianâ€™s assistant was sentenced to prison, and a doctor admitted taking bribes in connection with a long-running and elaborate test referral scheme operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS), of Parsippany, New Jersey, its president and numerous associates, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today.
Leonard Marchetta, 49, of Staten Island, New York, a physicianâ€™s assistant who previously pleaded guilty to one count of accepting bribes, was sentenced to 42 months in prison. Bret Ostrager, 50, of Woodbury, New York, a doctor with practices in Nassau County, New York, pleaded guilty to Count One, Count Two and Count Five of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Federal Travel Act by accepting bribes, one substantive violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, and one substantive violation of the Federal Travel Act. Both the sentencing and plea hearing took place today before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Marchetta and Ostrager are two of the 39 people â€“ 26 of them doctors â€“ who have pleaded guilty in connection with the bribery scheme, which its organizers have admitted involved millions of dollars in bribes and resulted in more than $100 million in payments to BLS from Medicare and various private insurance companies. It is believed to be the largest number of medical professionals ever prosecuted in a bribery case. The investigation has to date recovered more than $12 million through forfeiture.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Marchetta previously admitted that he accepted bribes in return for referring patient blood specimens to BLS and was paid approximately $3,000 per month. Marchettaâ€™s referrals generated approximately $660,000 in lab business for BLS.
Ostrager admitted today that, between February 2011 and April 2013, he received monthly cash bribes of approximately $3,300 from BLS employees and associates. He periodically solicited and received from the BLS employees and associates tickets and meals that cost thousands of dollars. These additional bribes in response to specific requests from Ostrager included tickets to a New York Mets baseball game, a New York Knicks basketball game, a Katy Perry concert, a Justin Bieber concert, and the Broadway show â€œNewsies.â€ In exchange, Ostrager referred patient blood samples to BLS. Ostragerâ€™s referrals generated approximately $909,000 in lab business for BLS.
Each count to which Ostrager pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. His sentencing is scheduled for March 29, 2016.
In addition to the prison term he received today, Marchetta must serve three years of supervised release and forfeit $72,000.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel; inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert; and IRSâ€“Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen with the ongoing investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph N. Minish, Danielle Alfonzo Walsman, and Jacob T. Elberg, Chief of the U.S. Attorneyâ€™s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Ward, Acting Chief of the officeâ€™s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.
U.S. Attorney Fishman reorganized the health care fraud practice at the New Jersey U.S. Attorneyâ€™s Office shortly after taking office, including creating a stand-alone Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since 2010, the office has recovered more than $640 million in health care fraud and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and other statutes.