Monday, October 01, 2012

Erie PA dentist pleads guilty to fraud–Dr. Kristi Ayn Liebau-Grassi

Former Erie-area dentist pleads guilty to billing fraud

By ED PALATTELLA, Erie Times-News

Friday September 26, 2012 11:32 PM

Former Erie-area dentist Kristi Ayn Liebau-Grassi would have gone up against many of her former patients if she had gone to trial on fraud charges.

The patients or their parents were prepared to testify that Liebau-Grassi billed Medicaid for dental work -- including crowns and the equivalent of root canals for children -- that was unnecessary or never provided.

The courtroom confrontations will not occur.

Liebau-Grassi, 39, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Erie on Wednesday to 14 felony counts that she defrauded Medicaid by making false statements in health-care matters. 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.

Liebau-Grassi agreed to pay restitution of $289,000 and faces a year to 18 months in federal prison at her sentencing before U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin on Feb. 13.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Piccinini and Liebau-Grassi's lawyer, David Ridge, agreed that the federal sentencing guidelines call for that amount of time for Liebau-Grassi, who has no prior record and who will get credit for pleading guilty.

Liebau-Grassi formerly lived in the 6000 block of Bridlewood Drive, in Fairview Township, and now lives in Sugar Land, Texas, near Houston. She remains a licensed dentist, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. She is free on her own recognizance.

The U.S. Attorney's Office charged Liebau-Grassi, also identified in court records as Kristi Ayn Liebau, by filing what is called a criminal information against her in August. The federal government typically secures grand jury indictments, but Liebau-Grassi, signaling her desire to end the case quickly, agreed to waive an indictment and plead guilty to the information.

Liebau-Grassi spoke softly and dabbed her eyes with a tissue as she told McLaughlin she wanted to plead guilty.

The FBI and a Medicaid investigator with the state Attorney General's Office built the case against Liebau-Grassi. They opened the probe to review concerns about the dental work she said she provided to patients, most of whom were children, Piccinini said.

The investigators 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, Piccinini said. He said patients and other dentists were prepared to testify against her.

In one case, Piccinini said, Liebau-Grassi billed for performing 16 pulpotomies -- or root canals for children -- and installing 16 steel crowns and four composite fillings, all in 17 minutes of surgery time.

Ridge, Liebau-Grassi's lawyer, has said she pleaded guilty to take responsibility for "any and all billing problems."

Liebau-Grassi on Wednesday admitted she was the sole person who signed the billing forms for her office.

ED PALATTELLA can be reached at 870-1813 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at