Dental manager convicted in $6M scam

Jury Chairs

A U.S. jury convicted a manager for his role in a $6 million bribery scheme in which marketers were paid to refer Medicaid-insured children to the Texas dental practice where he was employed, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Ifeanyi Ozoh, 54, who had worked as a manager at Floss Family Dental Care in Houston, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to pay and receive healthcare kickbacks and two counts of payment of kickbacks to marketers. Jurors reached a verdict after deliberating for one hour following a three-day trial, according to a press release dated February 14 from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

Ozoh, who is one of three employees arrested for their reported roles in the scheme, is scheduled to be sentenced in May and faces up to 25 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

At his trial, jurors heard testimony that Ozoh paid marketers between $20 and $100 for each Medicaid-insured child referred to Floss. Marketers testified that Ozoh slipped them cash secretly, sometimes leaving their illegal kickbacks on top of a vending machine located down the hall from the clinic.

One clinic manager at Floss testified that she repeatedly cautioned Ozoh that it was illegal to pay marketers. Medicaid prohibits the payment of kickbacks for referrals of medical services. Also, testimony revealed that Ozoh purportedly paid out more than $163,000 in bribes to marketers and received bonuses for meeting patient quotas, according to the release. From 2020 to 2021, Floss billed Medicaid over $6 million. Floss received over $4 million on those claims, most of which were predicated on kickbacks paid to marketers and for dental services that were not provided.

In January 2024, Ozoh’s co-defendant and operator of Floss, Rene Gaviola, 68, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, five counts of substantive healthcare fraud, three counts of payment of kickbacks, six counts of money laundering, and five counts for conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks. Gaviola faces up to 10 years in prison plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines when he is sentenced in April, according to a DOJ press release dated January 24.

Gaviola admitted to submitting fake claims to Medicaid for reimbursement of pediatric dental services, including cavity fillings, that were provided between 2018 to April 2021. Also, he admitted to employing an unlicensed person to treat children, operating the practice with no dentists, and paying kickbacks to marketers and caregivers of Medicaid-insured children to bring them to Floss for dental services. Finally, Gaviola admitted to laundering more than $100,000 in Medicaid funds from the Floss bank account to his own bank account, according to the January release.

In June 2023, another former Floss manager, Christian Agno Aquino, 42, continues to await trial. He was charged with conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, healthcare fraud, and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud for his role in the scam. Aquino’s charges were filed almost a year after Ozoh and Gaviola were charged.