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Figure in Blago Scandal Charged With Bribery

CHICAGO (CN) - A wealthy fund raiser with ties to the Rod Blagojevich scandal, who owns several Chicagoland surgery centers, was arrested Wednesday and charged with bribing doctors for patient referrals, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Raghuveer Nayak, 57, was charged with 19 counts of fraud and tax offenses, alleging he paid bribes and kickbacks to physicians and filed false federal income tax returns.

Nayak owns 10 surgery and MRI centers in Illinois and Indiana, according to the indictment.

"It was part of the scheme that Nayak paid and arranged to pay physicians bribes and kickbacks in the form of cash and other hidden payments so that the physicians would refer their patients to undergo medical treatment at Nayak's facilities," the indictment states. "Over the course of the scheme, Nayak paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to different physicians in exchange for the referrals that the physicians had made or would make to Nayak's facilities. As Nayak intended, the physicians materially deceived their patients by not disclosing to the patients that the physicians were being paid to make referrals to Nayak's facilities."

According to the 27-page indictment: "Nayak's facilities did not accept for treatment patients insured by public health insurance programs, such as the Medicare or Medicaid benefits programs. Nayak's facilities instead accepted for treatment patients insured by private health insurers, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, or patients who agreed to pay the entire fee themselves. Nayak's facilities did not enter into provider agreements with private health insurers, so that private health insurers treated Nayak's facilities as 'out-of-network' for purposes of paying bills submitted by Nayak's facilities for patient care."

Nayak allegedly concealed his scheme by claiming the bribes as advertising expenses on his tax returns.

"As a result, Nayak allegedly understated his gross income when he reported the following amounts: $4,643,916 for 2005; $6,471,865 for 2006; $5,791,109 for 2007; and $9,362,647 for 2008," the Justice Department said in a statement announcing the indictment.

The government seeks forfeiture of at least $1.8 million.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported today: "At last summer's Blagojevich retrial, prosecutors had a distinct way to refer to the wealthy businessman: He was 'the bribe guy,' who in 2008 allegedly offered millions of dollars to Rod Blagojevich's brother in exchange for appointing Jackson Jr. (D-Ill) to Obama's vacant Senate seat."

Jackson, who has not been charged, has denied repeatedly that he authorized Nayak or anyone else to bribe Blagojevich for him.

The 19-count indictment does not refer to Blagojevich, but builds a separate case against him.

According to today's Sun-Times report: "The Chicago Sun-Times had reported in 2010 that Nayak - who was a close Jackson family friend and campaign contributor - had told federal authorities Jackson directed him to approach the Blagojevich camp with a $6 million fund-raising offer in exchange for a Senate appointment for Jackson."

According to the Sun-Times story: "a Congressional ethics investigation still ongoing into Jackson cited Nayak by name when the panel found 'probable cause to believe that Representative Jackson either directed ... Raghuveer Nayak to offer to raise money for Governor Blagojevich in exchange for appointing Representative Jackson to the Senate seat ... or had knowledge that Nayak would likely make such an offer.'"

Nayak was released Monday on $10 million bond secured by six properties, according to the Sun-Times.

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