NJ sued for $100 million by doctor cleared of kickback scam
A New Jersey doctor who specializes in pain management has filed a $100 million lawsuit against state prosecutors for what the suit calls "manufactured and utterly baseless" kickback scheme charges that were ultimately dismissed.
The Office of the State Attorney General declined comment on Thursday.
Terry Ramnanan, a licensed anesthesiologist who lives in Upper Saddle River, first faced criminal charges three years ago. In August 2017, Ramnanan was charged in a “kickback scheme” announced by then-Attorney General Christopher Porrino.
Ramnanan was accused of paying a Totowa chiropractor for patient referrals to Ramnanan’s pain management facility in Paramus between 2012 and 2016.
The chiropractor, Ronald Hayek, had pleaded guilty in July 2016 to conspiracy, money laundering, commercial bribery and failure to pay taxes.
Almost a year later, Ramnanan was additionally accused of bribing another health care professional for patient referrals and also fraudulently submitting insurance claims for medical treatment.
The newer charges were announced in June 2018 by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who succeeded Porrino.
According to the complaint filed Wednesday, Ramnanan was forced to defend himself against "fabricated charges for nearly two years" until May 2019, when state Superior Court Judge Robert Vinci dismissed the entire 10-count indictment.
"In this case, the State lost sight of its obligation to do justice and instead sought to indict the defendant on the most serious charges it could present," the judge said, according to a transcript of the May 2019 court proceeding included with Ramnanan's complaint.
By then, the complaint states, irreversible damage was done to Ramnanan's reputation and 40-year career.
The complaint said that "while the first press release was damaging," it was the additional charges in 2018, combined with "Grewal’s boastful postings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram" about the case that "proved to be a devastating blow" to Ramnanan's practice.
Both news releases from the state Office of the Attorney General in 2017 and 2018 incorrectly referred to Ramnanan as a neurologist.
According to the complaint, Ramnanan paid Hayek $600 in monthly rent by check for the occasional use of his Totowa office space. Ramnanan's complaint said there were no emails, text messages, letters or faxes exchanged between the two professionals. "In short, there was no evidence whatsoever," of illegal payments for referral of patients, the lawsuit says.
Another specific point of contention in Ramnanan's lawsuit is a transcript of a secretly recorded conversation between Hayek and Ramnanan. The complaint said the transcript presented in court was misleading, as it made it seem as though Hayek had finished asking a question about payments before being interrupted by Ramnanan.
Ramnanan's suit also said the question on tape had been a reference to their "perfectly legal" monthly rental agreement.
The lawsuit names as defendants Grewal, four employees of the state Attorney General’s Office, and two chiropractors. The defendants re accused of "highly unethical conduct" such as manufacturing evidence and leading witnesses to give false, misleading and dishonest testimony.
Porrino is not part of the lawsuit, Ramnanan's attorney confirmed Thursday.