Doctor and office manager flip to government’s side in settlement of laboratory kickback case

by Ben Vernia | December 16th, 2022

On December 14, the Department of Justice announced that a physician (husband) and office manager (his wife), both based in Texas, have agreed to pay nearly $423,000 and cooperate against other defendants in settling allegations for their roles in a laboratory fraud case. According to DOJ’s press release:

Vijesh Patel, M.D. and his office manager and wife Laju Patel, both of Port Neches, Texas, have agreed to pay $422,789 to resolve False Claims Act allegations that they received illegal kickbacks in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute in return for referring patients for laboratory testing, and both have agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigations of, and litigation against, other participants in the alleged schemes.

* * *

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded healthcare programs. The Anti-Kickback Statute is intended to ensure that medical providers’ judgments are not compromised by improper financial incentives and are instead based on the best interests of their patients.

The settlement announced today resolves allegations that Dr. and Mrs. Patel received kickbacks in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute in return for Dr. Patel’s referrals to three laboratories:

  • Texas Laboratory. From December 2016 to July 2018, Dr. Patel allegedly received thousands of dollars in payments from a purported management service organization (MSO) named Indus MG LLC (Indus) in return for ordering laboratory tests from True Health Diagnostics LLC (True Health), a clinical laboratory in Frisco, Texas. The Indus MSO’s payments to Dr. Patel allegedly were disguised as investment returns but in fact were based on, and offered in exchange for, his referrals to True Health.
  • New Jersey Laboratory. From August 2018 to August 2021, Dr. Patel allegedly received thousands of dollars in kickbacks disguised as investment returns from a purported MSO named Avior Group LLC (Avior) in return for ordering laboratory tests from RDx Bioscience, Inc. (RDx), a clinical laboratory in Kenilworth, New Jersey. RDx allegedly funded remuneration to Dr. Patel in the form of volume-based commissions paid to an independent contractor recruiter, Corum Group LLC, which used an associated company, Avior, to pay kickbacks to Dr. Patel and other physicians in return for their referrals. In addition, fom December 2018 to August 2022, Mrs. Patel allegedly received kickbacks from RDx in the form of commercially unreasonable fees to purportedly collect urine specimens for testing that Dr. Patel referred to RDx.
  • South Carolina Laboratory. From August 2019 to December 2021, Dr. Patel allegedly received hundreds of dollars per month in inflated space rental payments in return for ordering laboratory tests from Labtech Diagnostics LLC (Labtech), a clinical laboratory in Anderson, South Carolina. Labtech’s rental payments allegedly were for a commercially unreasonable amount of space and excessive days and time.

* * *

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort between the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern District of Texas, District of New Jersey, and District of South Carolina, with assistance from HHS-OIG and DCIS. To date, the United States has recovered over $32 million relating to conduct involving True Health or MSO kickbacks to physicians in Texas, including False Claims Act settlements with 34 physicians, two health care executives, one office manager, and one laboratory. In addition, the United States has filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act against former True Health CEO Christopher Grottenthaler and others, which is captioned United States ex rel. STF, LLC v. True Health Diagnostics, LLC, et al., No. 4:16-cv-547 (E.D. Tex.).  A defendant who violates the act is liable for three times the amount of the government’s losses plus applicable penalties.

* * *

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts

Recent Comments