Pediatric dentist pays $1.3 million to settle false claims act allegations

Local dentist Jesus Villegas, who operates pediatric dental clinics in Milford and West Haven, has entered into a civil settlement agreement with the federal and state governments to pay $1.3 million to resolve allegations that his offices violated the federal and state False Claims Acts, according to Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

The allegations arise out of the taking of pediatric dental x-rays at Fairfield Pediatric Dentistry in Milford and New Haven Pediatric Dentistry in West Haven.

Under Connecticut law, a licensed dentist may delegate to dental assistants the taking of dental x-rays if the dental assistant can demonstrate successful completion of the dental radiography portion of an examination prescribed by the Dental Assisting National Board, officials said in a press release.

The federal and state governments allege that the majority of x-rays taken at Dr. Villegas’ dental clinics were taken by dental assistants who were not DANB certified. X-rays taken by uncertified dental assistants are not payable by the Medicaid program, U.S. officials said.

To resolve the allegations under the federal and state False Claims Acts, the clinics have agreed to pay $1,367,466.

As part of the settlement, Villegas has entered into a three-year billing Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is designed to ensure future compliance with the requirements of federal healthcare programs.

“Health care providers must utilize properly certified individuals to treat patients, and the failure to ensure such proper care for patients will have serious consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Daly.  “The U.S. Attorney’s office is committed to vigorously pursuing health care providers who submit false or fraudulent claims to federal healthcare programs.”

People who suspect health care fraud are encouraged to report it by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or the Health Care Fraud Task Force at 203-777-6311.