A New Jersey mayor has had the bulk of the kickback charges against him dismissed by a federal judge. Felix Roque is the mayor of West New York, New Jersey, a town just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. He had been indicted by a grand jury on three counts that, interestingly enough, were not related to his public duties. They concerned Roque’s medical practice – he’s an anesthesiologist. Here’s the background of the story.
A fellow named Ray Zuberi owned a chain of MRI centers in North Jersey. Last year he pled guilty to charges that he orchestrated a scheme in which he paid physicians money in order to have them refer patients to his centers. Specifically, it was alleged that Zuberi paid between $50 and $150 to physicians to refer patients for tests, even when the tests were unnecessary. The scale of the operation was apparently fairly large, and some doctors were said to have received thousands of dollars each month for the referrals. Zuberi’s plea was to a form of money laundering (“financial facilitation”). He also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.
Plea Deal for Accuser
Zuberi’s sentencing deal, as originally structured, would have led to a 10-year prison term. However, the deal called for a 6-month reduction in the term for every five people he helps the state to prosecute. You can probably see that this kind of a deal is fraught with problems. In any event, Mayor Roque was one of the people that Zuberi reported as having been a party to the scheme. This resulted in an indictment about a year ago against Roque, containing three counts.
The first two counts against Roque, both of which involved health care fraud, have now been dismissed. The judge found that there was no allegation of medically unnecessary tests, or of referrals that violated any insurance contracts. The final count, which alleges commercial bribery, is still pending, but the guts of the government’s case against Roque appears to be gone.
Probably the most interest aspect of the case is the deal the feds made with Zuberi on his sentencing, which gave him time off his sentence for turning those who allegedly participated in his scheme. The upshot of the deal is that a prime piece of evidence in each of the cases will be the testimony of Zuberi, who has already admitted to practicing fraud, and whose testimony may well be viewed by jurors as tainted. As for the case against Mayor Roque, it may be that the end is near.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
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New York, NY 10016