NEWARK, N.J. – Five doctors today 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, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
George Roussis, 44, of Staten Island, New York; Nicholas Roussis, 48, of Staten Island; Jorge J. Figueroa, 58, of Wayne, New Jersey; and Basel Batarseh, 57, of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court to separate informations charging them each with one count of accepting bribes in violation of the Federal Travel Act.
Yousef Zibdie, 53, of Wayne, New Jersey, who was indicted on June 6, 2017 with Aiman Hamdan and Kristina Hamdan, pleaded guilty before Judge Chesler to all 11 counts against him in the indictment, including participating in the bribery conspiracy, violating the Federal Anti-Kickback statute, violating the Federal Travel Act, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to documents filed in these cases and statements made in court:
George Roussis, a pediatrician, and his brother, Nicholas Roussis, an obstetrician-gynecologist, both with practices in Staten Island, accepted cash payments totaling approximately $175,000 from BLS employees and associates between October 2010 and April 2013. In addition, at the request of the Roussis brothers, BLS paid for strip club trips, including paying women to perform lap dances and engage in sex acts with George and Nicholas Roussis. In exchange, George and Nicholas Roussis referred their patients’ blood specimens to BLS, generating more than $1,450,000 and $250,000 of lab business for BLS, respectively.
Figueroa, an internal medicine doctor with a practice in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, accepted checks, cash and other bribe payments totaling approximately $200,000 from BLS employees and associates between May 2007 and April 2013. In exchange, Figueroa generated more than $1,400,000 in lab business for BLS.
Batarseh, an internal medicine doctor with a practice in West New York, New Jersey, accepted monthly bribe checks of $3,200 totaling more than $104,000 from BLS employees and associates between November 2007 and August 2010. In exchange, Batarseh generated more than $1,300,000 in lab business for BLS.
Zibdie, an internal medicine doctor with a practice in Woodland Park, New Jersey, accepted monthly bribe checks totaling approximately $80,000 from BLS employees and associates, including co-defendant Kristina Hamdan. In exchange, Zibdie generated more than $930,000 in lab business for BLS.
The investigation has thus far resulted in 50 convictions – 36 of them doctors – 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 $13 million through forfeiture. On June 28, 2016, BLS, which is no longer operational, pleaded guilty and was required to forfeit all of its assets.
The Travel Act charges to which each of the five doctors pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. It also carries a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
The conspiracy to engage in bribery charge and Federal Anti-Kickback Statute violations to which Zibdie pleaded guilty are punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The honest services wire fraud charges and conspiracy to commit money laundering charges to which Zibdie pleaded guilty are punishable by a maximum potential penalty of twenty years in prison. Each count also carries a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
The sentencings for all five defendants have been scheduled for Dec. 6, 2017.
Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark; inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn; IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert with the ongoing investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Alfonzo Walsman, Senior Litigation Counsel Joseph N. Minish and Jacob T. Elberg, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Ward, Acting Chief of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.
The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office reorganized its health care fraud practice in 2010 and created a stand-alone Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since that time, the office has recovered more than $1.34 billion 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.
George Roussis: Peter Bennett Esq., Red Bank, New Jersey
Nicholas Roussis: Joseph R. Corozzo Esq., New York, New York
Jorge J. Figueroa: Gerald Krovatin Esq., Newark, New Jersey
Basel Batarseh: Curtis LaForge Esq., Saddle Brook, New Jersey
Yousef Zibdie: Eric Kanefsky Esq., Newark, New Jersey