July 7, 2014

Cedar Grove Doctor Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Accepting Bribes for Test Referrals to Clinical Laboratory

NEWARK, NJ—A Cedar Grove, N.J., doctor was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from Parsippany, N.J.,-based Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS) as part of a long-running scheme operated by the lab, its president, and numerous associates, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Dennis Aponte, 46, previously pleaded guilty U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to violating the Federal Travel Act. Judge Chesler imposed Aponte’s sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On April 9, 2013, federal agents arrested BLS president and part owner, David Nicoll, 39, of Mountain Lakes, N.J.; Scott Nicoll, 32, of Wayne, N.J., a senior BLS employee and David Nicoll’s brother; and Craig Nordman, 34, of Whippany, N.J., a BLS employee and the CEO of Advantech Sales LLC—an entity used by BLS to make illegal payments. Authorities also arrested New Jersey physician Frank Santangelo, 43, of Boonton, N.J.

On June 10, 2013, David Nicoll, Scott Nicoll, Nordman, and four other associates of BLS pleaded guilty to informations charging them with one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Federal Travel Act and one count of money laundering. On July 24, 2013, Santangelo pleaded guilty to an information charging him with violating the Travel Act, money laundering and failing to file tax returns. The sentences for the BLS employees and Santangelo are pending.

Aponte admitted that he and David Nicoll agreed that BLS would pay Aponte bribes to refer to BLS blood specimens from the patients of his West New York, N.J., medical practice. From October 2012 to March 2013, Nordman, acting at David Nicoll’s direction, paid Aponte approximately $3,000 per month in cash in return for blood specimens referred to BLS. The lab made more than $175,000 through testing on blood specimens referred by Aponte.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Chesler sentenced Aponte to one year of supervised release, fined him $50,000 and ordered forfeiture of $235,000.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tom O’Donnell; IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates, with the ongoing investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Andrew Leven, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Minish, 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 of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.

U.S. Attorney 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 $535 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.