California charges 20 dentists with fraud

/ Source: The Associated Press

Twenty dentists were charged Wednesday with performing unnecessary and shoddy work on healthy teeth, skimping on anesthesia and filing phony bills to a state health insurance program for the poor.

The dentists are accused of defrauding the health program of $4.5 million. They also face charges of fraud, theft, child abuse, elder abuse and assault, Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.

“These dentists put at risk the health and well-being of hundreds of children and adults by performing slipshod dental services that were unnecessary, ignoring health problems that needed tending, and even skimping on appropriate amounts of anesthesia before submitting patients to painful procedures,” Lockyer said.

Modesto dentist Kyon Maung Teo, who owns Hatch Dental clinics in three cities, is accused of leading the scam that involved dentists throughout the state.

Teo did not immediately return a message left at his Modesto clinic seeking comment.

The complaint alleges that Teo illegally offered gifts or rebates to Medi-Cal beneficiaries and new patients who came to his clinics. Teo allegedly recruited 19 other dentists who were paid 25 percent of the insurance proceeds Hatch Dental received.

Lockyer said those “kickbacks” provided an incentive to do unnecessary dental work, including fillings and root canals. Some patients allegedly received 20 or more unnecessary fillings, Lockyer said.

To increase the number of procedures, dental assistants performed some work that lawfully can only be performed by licensed dentists, he said.

The attorney general also alleges that the clinics put patients at risk by reusing dental instruments without sterilizing them, issuing prescriptions without proper documentation, and forcibly restraining children during dental operations.