PARSIPPANY — A cardiologist with a practice in Paterson, and his wife pleaded guilty to their involvement in a test-referral bribe scheme operated by Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS), of Parsippany, its president and numerous associates, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Aiman Hamdan, 50, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to a superseding information charging him with accepting bribes in violation of the Federal Travel Act. His wife, Kristina Hamdan, 39, pleaded guilty before Judge Chesler to Counts One and Thirteen of an indictment charging her with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, the Federal Travel Act and the honest services wire fraud statute, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In September 2008, Aiman Hamdan was given a $500,000 loan by BLS in exchange for his agreement to refer patient blood samples to BLS. From October 2008 through November 2008, Aiman Hamdan caused approximately $53,000 of blood samples to be referred to BLS, resulting in the lab being paid that amount by Medicare and private insurance companies.
From November 2009 through April 2013, Kristina Hamdan, a former sales employee of the lab, agreed with others to pay doctors illegal bribes in exchange for the doctors’ agreement to refer patient blood specimens to BLS.
For example, Kristina Hamdan bribed Yousef Zibdie, 53, of Wayne, an internal medicine doctor with a practice in Woodland Park, in exchange for generating more than $900,000 in lab business for BLS. The bribes were funded by BLS and, in an effort to obscure the source and nature of the payments, paid to the doctors by Kristina Hamdan through a sham entity that also paid the Hamdans’ household and personal expenses.
Aiman Hamdan faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison on the Federal Travel Act charge. Kristina Hamdan faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison on Count One of the indictment and a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison on Count Thirteen of the indictment. Each count also carries a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
As part of their guilty pleas, Aiman and Kristina Hamdan agreed to forfeit and pay back $15,000 and $1.2 million in criminal proceeds, respectively. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for February 14, 2018.
Zibdie previously pleaded guilty on June 21, 2017 and awaits sentencing.
The investigation has thus far resulted in 53 convictions – 38 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.
Acting U.S. Attorney 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 Acting Inspector in Charge Joseph W. Cronin; 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 Senior Litigation Counsel Joseph N. Minish, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Danielle Alfonzo Walsman, Charles Graybow, 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 $1.37 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.