Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dentist gets plea deal in Medicaid fraud case | The News Journal | delawareonline.com


WILMINGTON -- Prominent Wilmington dentist Marieve O. Rodriguez admitted to 10 misdemeanor counts of filing false Medicaid reports on Monday in exchange for state prosecutors dropping 19 felony counts of health care fraud.

Rodriguez will also pay a $100,000 fine, repay $72,000 to the state's Medicaid program and $50,000 to cover the costs of prosecution.

The case against the operator of Gentle Care Family Dentistry on Gilpin Avenue in the city had been scheduled to go to trial this week.

Shortly after the charges were filed against her in August 2010, Rodriguez was allowed to keep operating her practice, though her ability to prescribe medications was suspended by state regulators. Under the terms of the plea deal, Rodriguez will now have to close the practice and will lose her license for at least a year.

Both sides agreed to defer sentencing until June 20, which will not only allow for a pre-sentencing investigation but will also allow Rodriguez, 40, to either sell her practice or allow her patients to find another dentist.

Police arrested Rodriguez following a 13-month investigation and charged her with multiple counts of submitting fraudulent claims to the state's Medicaid program, usually for procedures on children that were never performed. Among the indicators of fraud, according to court papers, were submissions from Rodriguez that claimed expensive procedures, such as X-rays, were performed on days that the office was closed.

Should Rodriguez get her license back after the one-year suspension, according to the terms of the plea agreement, she would not be allowed to participate in the state's Medicaid program for at least five years.

By admitting to the 10 misdemeanor charges, Rodriguez faces up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutor Kathleen Vavala, however, is expected to recommend one year of home confinement at the sentencing, which Judge John A. Parkins Jr. set for June.

Rodriguez did not speak at Friday's proceedings beyond answering yes-and-no questions. Her attorney, Kevin E. Raphael, declined to comment afterward.

Vavala said prosecutors were pleased that a professional who defrauded the public had been held accountable.

Contact Sean O'Sullivan at 324-2777 or sosullivan@delawareonline.com.

Dentist gets plea deal in Medicaid fraud case | The News Journal | delawareonline.com