September 19, 2013 - 4:57pm
A Travis County judge has awarded more than $22,000 in legal fees to an Amarillo law firm that helped expose more than $1 million in Medicaid fraud at a local orthodontics clinic.
Amarillo attorney Phil Russ, who represented three former employees of Goodwin Orthodontics, credited Kristen De Los Santos, Sandy De Los Santos and Lissa Eason with exposing health care fraud at the clinic that led to the federal conviction of Amarillo orthodontist David Goodwin.
“The money needs to go to those women,” Russ said Thursday. “This is an example of how responsible citizens can help save our taxpayer dollars from being drained away from government programs by fraud. It takes a whistleblower who sees it happening to sound the alarm, because fraud is a game of stealth and concealment.”
On Wednesday, a Travis County judge awarded the state of Texas and the three Amarillo women more than $4.2 million in damages against Goodwin and the clinic in a whistleblower lawsuit.
Russ said Thursday the women could receive some money from the case if the state and federal authorities collect enough restitution from Goodwin and the clinic. If state and federal authorities collect $4 million from the clinic, the women could theoretically split $630,000 to $840,000, he said.
“We’re somewhat optimistic that they will get some money; I’m not sure they will ever collect that kind of money,” he said.
In April, U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson sentenced Goodwin, 63, to more than four years in prison and ordered him to pay $1.8 million in restitution for bilking the Texas Medicaid Program out of more than $1 million. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to a single count of health care fraud.
Before sentencing, Goodwin apologized for his actions and said he was humbled the government allowed him time before sentencing to handle his mother’s funeral arrangements.
Robinson ordered Goodwin to serve three years of supervised release in part to ensure he paid restitution. The judge also barred Goodwin from participating as a dentist in the Medicaid program when he is released from prison.
Prosecutors alleged Goodwin frequently billed the government for work he never performed in a scheme patients likened to “herding cattle,” federal court records show.
According to federal court documents, Goodwin billed the Texas Medicaid Program for more than $2.6 million in services he claimed he provided when he knew that some of the services he provided were “not medically necessary.”
About 95 percent of Goodwin Orthodontics’ patients, who were usually seen on a monthly basis, were Medicaid recipients. In 2009, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Texas Attorney General’s Office received information that Goodwin billed the government for work done by dental assistants — who worked on patients while Goodwin was out of the office.
An FBI agent said in an affidavit that Goodwin flew from Texas to Indiana almost every month, billing Medicaid for patient services in Amarillo on dates when flight records showed he was in Indiana.
The building that housed Goodwin’s orthodontics practice, meanwhile, is up for sale, according to a sign now posted at the business.