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New Jersey mayor fights pay-for-referral bribery charge at trial

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | December 19, 2016
Business Affairs Risk Management
West New York Mayor Felix Roque has now taken the stand in his own defense at the commercial bribery trial over pay-for-referrals in New Jersey.

Questioned by his co-counsel, John MacDonald, he stated that he never took bribes.

“Dr. Roque, did you accept any money from Rehan Zuberi for patient referrals?,” said his lawyers.

“No I didn’t,” stated the mayor.

“Dr. Roque, did you sell your patients to Ray Zuberi for a referral fee?,” he was asked.

“No I didn’t,” the mayer reiterated.

“Dr. Roque, what is your plea in this indictment?,” pressed counsel.

“Not guilty,” said the physician, according to the latest report by the Hudson County View.

At the previous court session, the prosecution had rested in the incendiary trial of the mayor, charged with taking commercial bribes for patient referrals to American Imaging in Hackensack.

The tangled web – officially part of the ongoing “Rayscam” investigation – began in 2013 and netted numerous convictions or plea deals so far, including those of American Imaging boss Rehan (Ray) Zuberi, who is facing a decade behind bars for his actions.

The mayor and physician has maintained his innocence in the face of accusations summed up earlier this month by Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Chief Deputy Attorney General Peter Sepulveda, who stated, “defendant Roque sold his patients to the highest bidder,” according to Hudson County View.

At issue is whether or not he was paid to refer patients to the facility.

The final witness for the prosecution was driver Jose Lopez, who said under oath that he drove Zuberi to Roque’s place so the bribes could be given to the doctor, according to the Hudson Country View.

Defense co-counsel Chris Adams cried foul, as he has about other witnesses who have rolled over on the mayor, suggesting that after he was busted as part of “Rayscam” the driver copped a guilty plea to third-degree commercial bribery and third-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Lopez, speaking through a translator, told Deputy Attorney General Crystal Callahan, that he took patients between Roque's and American Imaging, and also took Zuberi there as well.

Roque's co-counsel John MacDonald disagreed with prosecutors when they accused his client, saying earlier this month that, “Every trial tells a story, this is a tale of two men. It was the best of men and it was the worst of men,” he observed, taking a leaf from “Tale of Two Cities,” written by Charles Dickens

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