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Orange County

5 Dentists in O.C. Are Charged With Fraud

September 23, 2004|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Twenty-one California dentists, including five in Orange County, were charged Wednesday with fraud after they allegedly performed unnecessary procedures on patients and bilked Medi-Cal for $4.5 million, officials said.

The 64-page complaint, filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court, accuses the dentists of performing needless fillings and root canals, and failing to use adequate anesthesia during oral surgery, officials said.

In several instances, the complaint alleges, dentists physically restrained children during dental procedures by pinning them down when the youngsters were screaming or squirming.

"The dentists committed acts injurious to public health, placing the patients at risk of pain, infection, loss of teeth and great bodily injury," Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said in a statement.

He said the dentists performed "slipshod dental services that were unnecessary, ignoring health problems that needed tending, and even skimping on appropriate amounts of anesthesia before submitting patients to painful procedures."

Steve Sangmoon Ahn, 41, of Fullerton; Hoon Young Chang, 34, of Anaheim Hills; Keith Yoshikuzu Komaki, 58, of Anaheim; Luis Alexandrino Pinto, 42, of Irvine and Williams Defreitas Saraiva, 60, of Irvine were arrested Wednesday at their homes, said Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.

Other dentists arrested were from Stockton, Modesto and the Bay Area. Authorities said all of the dentists worked for Kyon Maung Teo, 42, who, along with his wife, operated Hatch Dental clinics in Modesto, Stockton and Ceres.

The Orange County dentists worked part time at the clinics and earned a percentage of their Medi-Cal billings, the complaint said.

Teo allegedly advertised in fliers and such shoppers as the PennySaver, offering "rebates" of electronic toothbrushes, sweatshirts and gift certificates to grocery stores for clients who were treated at Hatch Dental, according to the complaint.

The dentists allegedly made fake charts, performed procedures of poor quality or billed Medi-Cal for procedures never performed. Office workers at the clinics were trained to bill for visits that never occurred and had their paychecks docked if they failed to, authorities said.

"It was not uncommon for a patient to walk out of Hatch Dental with 20 or more unnecessary fillings," Lockyer said.

In one incident, Chang did 28 fillings on a patient in one visit, according to the complaint.

In 2002, Teo allegedly told a patient she needed 26 fillings. Another dentist at the clinic who was asked to perform the work determined the woman needed only two, according to the complaint. The dentist was later fired by Teo, the complaint noted.

The investigation was sparked in 2002 by the attorney general's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse after a woman reported that she went to Hatch Dental to get a cleaning but left with 22 fillings, Jordan said.

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