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30 doctors subpoenaed in probe of pal of Blagojevich, Jackson Jr.

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed dozens of doctors in the Chicago area as part of a probe into a wealthy Indian-American fund-raiser who owns surgical centers — and has ties to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

While the FBI and IRS investigation is centered on businessman and political fund-raiser Raghuveer Nayak, who owns surgical centers in Illinois and Indiana, the feds have cast a wide net: Sources said at least 30 doctors received grand jury subpoenas, and more than 10 of Nayak’s employees have also been subpoenaed.

In addition, two of Nayak’s surgery centers in Chicago were hit with search warrants in late January, and at least half a dozen doctors have been offered immunity or been granted immunity for their testimony, sources with knowledge of the investigation say.

Federal authorities are investigating whether Nayak made improper payments to the doctors in order to draw their surgeries to his centers. Under the allegations, while private insurers paid doctors and the centers for surgeries performed, Nayak is under investigation for allegedly separately paying doctors hundreds of dollars for every surgery brought to the centers. Doctors who perform out-patient surgeries, including chiropractors and podiatrists, practice at the centers and can choose to bring their work to the centers rather than a hospital.

Nayak’s attorney, Tom McQueen, would not comment.

Nayak owns or has owned at least a dozen surgical centers and satellite offices in Illinois and Indiana. Sources said that some doctors told authorities that they found Nayak’s centers to have state-of-the-art equipment and said they operated under a written contract with Nayak.

Even though the immunity for the secret grand jury testimony would protect doctors who admit wrongdoing from criminal prosecution, their licenses to practice could still be at risk.

A spokeswoman for the state agency that licenses doctors pointed to the state Medical Practice Act. That section of state law permits suspension or revocation of physicians’ state licenses if they engage in “dishonorable, unethical or unprofessional conduct” or “share or split any professional fee or other form of compensation for professional services with anyone in exchange for a referral.”

Two of Nayak’s surgery centers — Rogers Park One Day Surgery Center at 120 S. Riverside Plaza and Lakeshore Surgery Center 7200 N. Western Avenue — were the subject of search warrants in late January.

Some of the sources questioned federal jurisdiction of the probe, saying that Nayak did not receive any federal funding at the centers.

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Nayak is a longtime friend of the Jackson political family, having taken a trip to India with the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He is also a longtime fund-raiser for and donor to congressman Jackson. Nayak himself has cooperated with authorities. He told investigators after Blagojevich’s 2008 arrest that congressman Jackson asked him during a visit to Washington D.C. to approach the then-governor with a $6 million offer of campaign money in exchange for a Senate seat appointment. The Sun-Times first reported the allegations last fall and noted then that Nayak was under federal scrutiny. Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, testified last summer that Nayak approached him with the $6 million offer — one that he said he turned down. He referred to Nayak and other Indian fund-raisers as “keystone cops.” Nayak did not testify at that trial. But Blagojevich appointee Rajinder Bedi did, and he accused Nayak of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars through him in an alleged check-cashing scheme.

Rod Blagojevich faces retrial next week regarding the alleged Senate seat sale, among other charges. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has not been charged with wrongdoing and staunchly denied Nayak’s allegations.

Surgery centers linked to Nayak contributed more than $283,000 to Illinois politicians between 2001 and 2007, including $174,500 to impeached, ex-Gov. Blagojevich during that period, state campaign records show.

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