A Washington Township chiropractor and his partner in three offices each face up to seven years in state prison after pleading guilty today to accepting more than $1 million in kickbacks in exchange for referring dozens of car-crash patients for other services.
UPDATE (Dec. 19, 2012): Each was sentenced to seven years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan in Morris County. They were also ordered to pay restitution and back taxes.
Fernando Barrese ( above left ), who also independently owns Wallington Chiropractic Center, and Christopher J. Montana of Chester (Morris County) also admitted not reporting the payoffs on their tax returns.
Both men are co-owners of Chiropractic Centres in Jersey City, Newark and Elizabeth. Each admitted referring a combined 100 or so patients — all who’d been involved in car crashes — for additional services that included legal representation.
Barrese and Montana ( above, right ) said they were paid $500 a pop for each patient.
Under their plea deals, they must pay $200,000 in restitution to 15 insurance carriers, on top of whatever prison sentences they get.
Barrese will be ordered to pay $240,451 in back taxes, penalties and interest to the New Jersey Division of Taxation, while Montana will be ordered to pay $71,032, state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said today.
Their respective chiropractic licenses will be suspended for 18 months, and the case will be referred to the New Jersey Board of Chiropractic Examiners for other possible sanctions.
Sentencing was set for Dec. 19 in Superior Court in Morristown.
A doctor’s decision about where, or whether, to send a patient for testing, treatment or other services should be based on health reasons and not payoffs — especially because other people’s insurance premiums pay for those services, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.
“Dr. Montana and Dr. Barrese lined their own pockets by taking advantage of motor vehicle accident victims who came to them seeking treatment for their injuries,” Chiesa said.
“Ultimately the cost of such fraud is passed on to consumers through increased premiums,” the attorney general added. “The sentences these defendants face should serve as a powerful deterrent to anyone thinking of using such schemes to defraud insurance companies.”
Technically, Barrese and Montana violated New Jersey’s “anti-running statute,” which imposes criminal penalties for acting as or using someone to recruit patients for services in exchange for what are illegal payments.
Violators face a minimum three to five years in state prison.
Barrese also admitted that he failed to report $918,826 in income on his 2009 tax return. Montana admitted he filed a bogus return that didn’t include $291,000 in income.
Assistant New Jersey Attorney General John Kennedy and Deputy Attorney General Cheryl Maccaroni prosecuted the pair.
Detectives Darrell Washington, Kelly Howard, Janessa Jones and Kristi Procaccino coordinated the investigation, along with Civil Investigator Megan Flanagan and Analyst Bethany Schussler.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi thanked Auditor Charlene Singleton from the New Jersey Division of Taxation for her assistance in the investigation.
Anyone who has information about insurance can report it anonymously: 1-877-55-FRAUD or by visiting: www.NJInsurance fraud.org.
Rewards are available for an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.
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