- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A doctor faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty in a long-running bribes-for-test referrals scheme involving a now-defunct New Jersey firm.

Federal prosecutors say 58-year-old Juan Espindola pleaded guilty to violating the travel act by accepting bribes. He faces up to five years in prison when he’s sentenced Oct. 12.

Espindola is a Montclair resident who has a medical practice in Clifton. He got the bribes from Parsippany-based Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services for test referrals.

Espindola admitted that between April 2011 and June 2012 he accepted bribes of about $1,500, largely on a monthly basis, from a person working on behalf of the lab. The payments were made by check and were characterized as consulting fees, although Espindola provided no such services.

Prosecutors say Espindola’s referrals generated roughly $65,000 in lab business for the company. He pleaded guilty Thursday.

Forty-one people - including 27 physicians - have pleaded guilty in the bribery scheme. Its organizers have admitted the scam involved millions of dollars in bribes and resulted in more than $100 million in payments to the company from Medicare and various private insurance companies.

The investigation has recovered more than $12 million so far through forfeiture.

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