Only weeks after Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Comey told health lawyers the federal government would be focusing on kickback arrangements in the healthcare industry, the U.S. attorney in New York City announced the arrest of three city physicians for demanding kickbacks for patient referrals to a physician specialist.
Paul Branda, M.D., a general practitioner, and Naum Tsynman, M.D., a Russian native and board-certified internist, both of whom practice in Brooklyn, and William Johnson, M.D., a board-certified internist practicing in Queens, were arrested Thursday.
In a criminal complaint filed earlier this week, the three were charged with receiving kickbacks from 1997 through 2003 from a gastroenterologist, who was not identified in federal charging documents.
Starting in 2001, the gastroenterologist, who was by then a cooperating witness who had pleaded guilty to submitting fraudulent claims and paying illegal kickbacks for referrals, met with the doctors at the request of agents from the FBI and HHS' inspector general.
For every colonoscopy, endoscopy or other procedure performed, the specialist would kickback to the referring doctors 20% to 25% of the amount received from the patient's insurer. The government videotaped the cash kickback exchanges, which were disguised as rent payments.
The doctors face a maximum five-year sentence and $250,000 in fines.
Earlier this month, Comey and Acting Principal Deputy Inspector General Dara Corrigan told health lawyers at the American Bar Association Health Fraud Institute in New Orleans that kickback arrangements in healthcare would be a top enforcement priority and that both those giving and receiving kickbacks would be prosecuted.