Cardiologist collects $2.4 million in New Jersey whistleblower case
Nicholas L. DePace MD, a prominent New Jersey cardiologist(pictured above) will receive $2.4 million dollars for his role in a whistleblower suit against Cooper Health Systems and Cooper University Hospital, located in Camden, New Jersey. After a lengthy investigation by the United States Department of Justice and the New Jersey Attorney General, Cooper agreed to pay $12.6 million dollars to resolve allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
The qui tam case was originally filed by DePace who claimed the Cooper was paying kickbacks to doctors for referring patients to the hospitals. The kickbacks came in the form of payments to high profile doctors for allegedly providing ‘”advisory services” to the Cooper Heart Institute Advisory Board. The doctors were supposed to be providing advice to the Board regarding issues such as developing technology and research. In actual fact, however, there wasn’t much actual advising being done. Select physicians were paid $18,500 simply for attending very brief lectures, some of which had little to do with medicine. Federal officials claim the payments were actually kickbacks for patient referrals. Dr. DePace deserves recognition for his courage in bringing the kickback scheme into the light.
Cooper University Hospital CEO John P. Sheridan however, insisted that Cooper had done nothing wrong. Instead, Cooper was paying the government nearly $13 million dollars simply to “to avoid the burdens and uncertainties of a protracted litigation.” One of those “uncertainties”that Mr. Sheridan was worried about appears to be the likelihood of a rather large adverse result at trial after the hospital couldn’t plausibly explain why doctors were being paid for doing nothing. Good call Mr. Sheridan.