WEST NEW YORK — New Jersey politics never fails to amaze.
Four years ago, West New York Mayor Felix Roque, a doctor who was seen as an alternative to the Hudson County town’s machine politics, was elected over a longtime politician and began “reforming” town government.
Three years ago, he and his son were indicted for allegedly hacking into a political opponent’s web site.
Two years ago, he was acquitted on the charge (his son was found guilty of a misdemeanor). However, the state Department of Education released a report accusing Mayor Roque of meddling in the school system’s personnel decisions and other matters. No charges were ever filed.
Two months ago, Roque was re-elected after running against a slew of opponents.
And on Tuesday, June 9, the state of New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced that he has been indicted again — this time for allegedly taking cash bribes in Town Hall.
According to the release, “West New York Mayor Dr. Felix Roque was indicted for referring patients to the medical imaging company Diagnostic Imaging Affiliates in exchange for cash bribes and other kickbacks.”
The press release continues:
The 59-year-old Roque, who operates the Pain Relief Center medical practice in West New York, was indicted by a state grand jury on three charges: second-degree healthcare claims fraud, second-degree commercial bribery and third-degree running.
The indictment alleges that from 2007 to 2012, Roque participated in a scheme by which he agreed 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 allegedly delivered cash kickbacks to Roque on a monthly basis and made several payments to Roque at the mayor’s office in West New York Town Hall. Zuberi and his associates allegedly paid Roque approximately $250,000.
Zuberi, 46, of Boonton, pleaded guilty last month 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. The plea agreement calls for Zuberi to receive a 10-year state prison sentence with a four-year non-parole eligibility stipulation.
“By allegedly taking approximately a quarter-million dollars in bribes, Mayor Roque put his personal wealth and political career ahead of his patients’ needs,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “As evidenced by this multi-phased prosecution, we are intent upon ensuring that a medical practitioner’s professional opinion is not for sale in New Jersey and that all medical advice is given with only a patient’s best interests in mind.”
“A New Jerseyan who carries medical insurance will at some point be both a consumer of insurance and a medical patient and it is our job to make certain they are treated fairly in both contexts,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi. “We can do that by eliminating the corrupt practices that have spread to portions of the healthcare industry.”
The charges announced today are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000.
Tuesday evening, Roque issued this release in response:
Statement by Attorney Christopher D. Adams, Esq., counsel to Felix E. Roque:
“Mayor Roque is innocent of the charges and looks forward to once again clearing his name from what are ridiculously false charges.”
“The state’s case rests entirely on the word of a convicted liar and cheat, who the Attorney General’s Office has incentivized to make more lies in exchange for a reduced sentence.”
“I wouldn’t trust Rehan Zuberi if he told me his name – in fact, the State knows that he has [allegedly] lied about that in the past too.”
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