Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dr. Kristi Ayn Liebau-Grassi doesn’t want to go to jail.

Remember the Erie, Pennsylvania dentist who headed to Texas for a more lucrative position with Pacific Dental d/b/a Modern Dental?  Well, she’s not wanting to go to jail. Didn’t work very well for Robin Lockwood in Oklahoma, however Lockwood’s dental license still appears squeaky clean! Amazing!




Published: January 22, 2013 12:01 AM EST
Updated: January 22, 2013 1:38 AM EST

Former Erie dentist seeks to avoid prison term

By LISA THOMPSON, Erie Times-News

A former area dentist who pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicaid is hoping a judge will spare her a term in federal prison so she can better care for her family.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a prison sentence of a year to 18 months for the dentist, Kristi Ayn Liebau-Grassi, who admitted in September that she repeatedly billed the government for dental work that was unnecessary or never provided.

Her lawyer, however, is hoping to convince a judge to give her a lighter sentence because of her clean prior record, her family's needs and she accepted responsibility.

"The defendant is a loving and devoted parent whose maternal responsibilities may be greater than almost anyone who has stood for sentencing before this Court," the lawyer, David Ridge, wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in Erie.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Piccinini, the prosecutor, will have a chance to respond before Liebau-Grassi's sentencing hearing Feb. 13 before U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin.

Liebau-Grassi pleaded guilty on Sept. 26 to 14 felony counts that she defrauded Medicaid by making false statements in health-care matters. She agreed to pay nearly $289,000 in restitution.

The government said the fraud occurred from January 2008 through March 2011, when she was practicing at 4010 East Lake Road in Lawrence Park Township and at the UPMC Hamot Surgery Center.

Investigators with the FBI and the state Attorney General's Office found Liebau-Grassi performed unnecessary work, performed work and then billed it as more expensive work, billed for work on teeth that did not exist and billed for procedures so numerous she could have not performed them in the allotted time.

Liebau-Grassi was charged in August through a document called a criminal information after she waived her right to a grand jury indictment, a move that typically signals a defendant's desire to resolve a case quickly and plead guilty.

In his sentencing memorandum, Ridge recalled Liebau-Grassi's acceptance of responsibility. He said there is legal precedent for giving Liebau-Grassi a sentence lighter than recommended by the guidelines.

Ridge said other defendants facing similar sentencing guidelines were given lighter sentences for reasons less compelling than those Liebau-Grassi can offer. He pointed to the case of Eliseo Roquiz, a Millcreek anesthesiologist, who faced a sentencing guideline of 18 to 24 months, but in June received a four-month prison sentence for failing to pay the Internal Revenue Service more than $345,000.

Liebau-Grassi's husband is working full-time as a golf professional, Ridge said. But if his wife is incarcerated, he might be forced to quit that job to care for the couple's children, one of whom has a significant medical condition, Ridge said. A house arrest sentence would allow Liebau-Grassi to meet the child's needs and help the family earn enough to pay restitution, Ridge said.

Liebau-Grassi formerly lived in Fairview Township. She now lives in Texas and works in a dental clinic for low-income patients, according to Ridge.

LISA THOMPSON can be reached at 870-1802 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNthompson