Texas dentist sentenced to prison for Medicaid fraud

A Beaumont, TX, orthodontist has been sentenced to federal prison for Medicaid fraud after submitting claims for palatal expanders that were never provided to his patients.

Terrence Ewing Syler, DDS, 70, pleaded guilty in June to healthcare fraud and was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison on November 7 by U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement.

Dr. Syler, who owned and operated Syler Orthodontics in Beaumont, submitted the fraudulent claims from January 2007 to October 2012, according to the statement. As a result of the scheme, Dr. Syler received $829,000 to which he was not entitled. As part of his plea agreement, Dr. Syler agreed to forfeit several bank accounts totaling just over $829,000 and pay a $6,000 fine.

The Texas Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid) is jointly funded by the state of Texas and the federal government, and helps pay for reasonable and necessary medical procedures and services provided to individuals who are deemed eligible under state low-income programs.

Texas has been rocked by allegations of fraud by dentists and orthodontists accused of bilking the state Medicaid program out of tens of millions of dollars. A report released in 2012 by the state Health and Human Services Commission revealed that Texas orthodontists charged Medicaid as much for services as the rest of the U.S. combined in 2010, and that the Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership, tasked with evaluating and approving claims, was rubber stamping them.

In 2012, the Texas Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General formed a task force designed to target Medicaid dental fraud. The task force is working to improve investigations of fraudulent charges to the children's Medicaid program and recover losses more quickly.