A Bergen County Superior Court judge dismissed two charges in West New York Mayor Felix Roque’s case alleging he took over $250,000 in kickbacks, but the commercial bribery charge still stands.
Roque was indicted by the state Attorney General’s Office back on June 9, 2015 alleging that he participated in a $250,000 bribery and kickback scheme between 2007 and 2012.
The North Hudson mayor pleaded not guilty the following month and then in February of this year his attorneys, Christopher Adams and John MacDonald – the latter who also represented him in his 2013 federal hacking trial where he was acquitted of all charges – filed a motion to dismiss.
That motion was finally heard in front of Bergen County Superior Court Judge Christopher Kazlau on Friday.
Specifically, Roque is accused of participating in a scheme to refer patients needing MRI and CT scans to medical diagnostic imaging centers controlled by Rehan Zuberi in exchange for cash and election campaign contributions.
Zuberi previously pleaded guilty to charges that he led a criminal enterprise that paid several million dollars of bribes and kickbacks to dozens of doctors from 2008 to 2014.
After providing a detailed summation of the case, which alleges Roque received $100 each time he referred patients to one of Zuberi’s North Jersey medical imaging centers, Kazlau ruled on each motion in front of the court.
Count 1, second degree health care claims fraud, was dismissed “because it fails to provide health care claims fraud with sufficient specificity.”
Kazlau noted that “the indictment does not identify which insurance companies received false claims, which patients insurance claims were false, which provisions of the insurance agreement were violated or what language in the insurance contracts required the defendant’s disclosure of the received kickbacks from a provider in company-related transactions.”
Count 3, a third degree runners charge, was thrown out since there was no proof that Roque made “any medically unnecessary referrals” to Zubheri’s medical imaging facility.
On Count 2, a second degree commercial bribery charge, Kazlau pointed to sworn testimony from Anthony Correll, a detective for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, to indicate that there is enough evidence for the charge to stand.
According to more sworn testimony from Correll, Zuberi did not want to deliver the kickbacks directly because he did not want to be involved in something illegal.
After Raza Chudry, who previously served jail time for healthcare fraud, removed himself from the operation, Jose Lopez, a driver for Zuberi’s imaging facility allegedly took over as the middleman.
Lopez used to be a driver for a medical transportation company and worked with Roque years ago. However, Correll also testified that after about three months, Zuberi began delivering the kickbacks to Roque himself.
The state’s motion that asked to have Lopez testify in the case was also denied, as was a motion by Roque’s team to dismiss the case for a lack of due process.
After Adams stressed Roque’s desire to move forward with the trial as quickly as possible, both sides agreed on September 6 as the date for the mayor’s pre-trial conference.
Afterwards, Roque briefly gave his thoughts on the matter to Hudson County View – the only media outlet in attendance at the hearing.