Authorities Root Out Fake D.C. Dental Scam

June 16, 2005

United States Attorney Kenneth Wainstein, District of Columbia Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Michael A. Mason, and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles Ramsey announced that Gladys Rivera, 43, of Oakton, Virginia, was sentenced recently in United States District Court to 12 months and one day of incarceration for making false statements relating to health care matters as well as practicing dentistry without a license at the International Dental Care, located at 2108 18th Street, NW, in the District of Columbia.

When imposing sentence upon Rivera, the Honorable Royce Lamberth called practicing without a license a “serious offense” deserving of incarceration. Judge Lamberth previously sentenced Keith Callahan, 48, of Alexandria, Virginia, to 12 months and one day in prison on May 18 for the same crimes, which also occurred at International Dental.

According to the statement of the offense agreed to by Rivera and the government, beginning in July 2003, Gladys Rivera opened a dentist’s office called International Dental Care Inc. Rivera had previously worked for a dentist and when she opened International Dental Care, she contracted with her previous employer to take over his practice (as owner, not dentist). Rivera took her former employer’s patient files and several of his patients transferred to International Dental Care. International Dental Care then opened its doors and remained open through July 2004, receiving more than $200,000 in gross receipts.

Although Rivera had received formal, university-based training as a dentist in her homeland of El Salvador, she was not a licensed dentist in the District of Columbia. She had passed the first half of the dental exams in the District of Columbia, but reportedly failed the second half.

Rivera reportedly offered a position as the “start up dentist” at International Dental Care to Callahan, a man who already was working at another dentist’s office in the District. Callahan, who is a graduate of Howard University School of Dentistry, reportedly provided her with a dentist license number and a DEA license number. Rivera’s decision to hire Callahan was not a violation of law. Callahan affirmatively represented to her that he was a licensed dentist. He had the objective appearance of being a licensed dentist, including an active DEA number, and framed diplomas.

When Rivera ordered stationery and prescription pads for him, he reviewed the proofs, including his name and title (D.D.S.) and the DEA number. He affirmatively approved those stationery orders.

Rivera did not ask for a copy of Callahan’s actual license to practice in the District of Columbia until after insurance companies began to deny claims pending production of the license. Callahan then reportedly gave a series of excuses and failed promises to produce the license. Even though Callahan had not yet provided a copy of his license, Rivera continued to let him function as a dentist at International Dental Care.

While Callahan worked as a dentist for her, Rivera reportedly grew dissatisfied with his technical skills because she could see his mistakes. Rivera began to assist Callahan with dental procedures such as root canals, extractions, fillings, cleanings and simple exams out of concern for the patients and in order to ensure the proper execution of the needed dental work.

This assistance began as instruction which attempted to improve his skills and graduated into her physically putting her own hands on instruments in patients’ mouths. When providing this assistance, Rivera reportedly informed some patients that she was not licensed in the District of Columbia.

In part due to Callahan’s failure to produce a license and in part due to dissatisfaction with his dental skills, Rivera began the process of hiring a new dentist while allowing Callahan to continue working there. She began that process prior to any known involvement by federal authorities, but not in a sufficiently speedy fashion. She reportedly permitted Callahan to work there during the period she should have known he was unlicensed, but negligently failed to remove him from the practice.

Because of claims submitted by International Dental Care, Rivera caused a loss totaling in excess of $15,000 to more than 10 insurance companies. Rivera maintains that all the dental procedures for which International Dental Care submitted insurance claims were actually performed; and the government has no information to the contrary.

Rivera’s crimes of practicing dentistry without a license and submitting false statements relating to health care matters are based on lack of proper licensing by Rivera and Callahan, that is, they are malum prohibitum offenses.

Rivera is attempting to make restitution by surrender of $70,050.41 in cash previously seized from International Dental Care’s bank accounts.

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