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Bribery: modern twists on an ancient crime in New Jersey case

Bribery is an ancient crime. Legal codes making it a criminal offense date all the way back to the Code of Hammurabi nearly 4,000 years ago. At its core, it's an offense that involves paying someone money to someone in a position of authority in order to exercise influence on that person's decisions.

Of course, the types of bribery allegations possible in a modern society can be far more complex than those in ancient Babylon. In a current New Jersey bribery case, for example, the former head of a diagnostic testing laboratory has pleaded guilty to bribing doctors so that the laboratory could submit bills for excessive and arguably unnecessary laboratory tests.

The tab for the dubious tests was born by Medicare. But according to the former director of the lab, doctors were hardly blameless in the transaction. The former lab director contends that doctors demanded cash payoffs in exchange for giving the lab their business. Hundreds of doctors were supposedly involved in the scheme.

Such allegations are rarely made against so many doctors at one time. After all, physicians practice a profession whose values go nearly as far back as the Code of Hammurabi to the time-honored Hippocratic Oath to "first, do no harm."

Only one doctor has been charged in the case so far. But an FBI investigation into bribery and healthcare fraud is ongoing.

Meanwhile, seven people have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in federal court. One of the seven was the former lab director; others were lab workers or consultants. The seven people will be sentenced later this year for their parts in a conspiracy that included elements of bribery and money laundering.

Source: NBC New York, "Corrupt Lab Boss: Hundreds of Doctors Took Bribes to Help Steal Millions from Medicare," Jonathan Dienst and Joseph Valiquette, JUne 11, 2013

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