NEWARK, N.J. – A doctor with a medical practice in Montclair, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 14 months in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for test referrals as part of a long-running and elaborate scheme operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS), of Parsippany, New Jersey, its president and numerous associates, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Franklin Dana Fortunato, 65, of Montville, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to violating the Federal Travel Act, as well as filing a false tax return. Judge Chesler imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
Including Fortunato, 38 people – 26 of them doctors – 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. The investigation has so far recovered more than $11 million to date through forfeiture.
According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court:
Furtunato admitted he accepted bribes in return for referring patient blood specimens to BLS. Fortunato received more than $100,000 in bribe payments – often more than $5,000 per month – from BLS disguised through sham lease and sham service agreements between 2006 and 2009. BLS made more than $430,000 through testing on blood specimens referred by Fortunato.
Fortunato admitted that he failed to report those bribes as income. From 2004 to 2008, he also failed to disclose and report as income $540,000 in patient co-pays and other monies paid to him by other health care providers. Fortunato failed to pay more than $160,000 in taxes he owed as a result of that unreported income.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Chesler sentenced Fortunato to one year of supervised release and ordered him to pay a fine of $75,000. As part of the plea deal, he must forfeit more than $635,000.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert; IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen; and inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates, with the ongoing investigation.
The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Andrew Leven; Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph N. Minish; Jacob T. Elberg, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Ward, Chief of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reorganized the health care fraud practice at the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’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 $635 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.
Defense counsel: Ricardo Solano Esq., Newark