Silver Spring dentist sentenced to 30 months for conspiracy to commit mail and healthcare fraud

A Silver Spring dentist was sentenced Friday to 30 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit mail and healthcare fraud.

U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang sentenced Edward T. Buford III, 70.

Buford was also ordered to pay $1,267,630 in restitution, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Buford pled guilty in May.  Buford was a licensed dentist in Washington, D.C. and the owner/ Chief Executive Officer of International Dental Associates, Inc., a dental clinic located in Washington. Buford led a scheme from January 2013 to May 2018 to file fraudulent Medicaid claims for dental services to Medicaid beneficiaries and recruited Medicaid beneficiaries to fuel the scheme through the payment of kickbacks and bribes, according to his guilty plea.

Buford’s Medicaid provider number was suspended in 2015, and at that point he and a business partner continued to submit claims through the partner’s provider number, according to the plea. The two re-enrolled as a Medicaid provider in 2016, but did not disclose Buford’s suspension from Medicaid, according to the plea.

Buford and other “co-conspirators” offered and paid kickbacks to other conspirators and patient recruiters in exchange for referring Medicaid beneficiaries to the practice for dentures and other dental services, according to the plea.

At Buford’s direction, the recruiters offered cash bribes to beneficiaries to visit IDA and accept dental services.  According to the plea, Medicaid paid substantially more for dentures than for many other dental services, including dental cleanings.  Also according to the plea, Buford paid larger cash kickbacks to recruiters —approximately $50 per beneficiary—for beneficiaries that agreed to be fitted for dentures, and typically paid the recruited beneficiaries $20 to be fitted for dentures. Buford knew that Medicaid would not have paid the claims had it known they were procured through kickbacks and bribes, according to the plea.

As detailed in the plea agreement, even though dentures required multiple visits to fit and deliver, Buford caused the recruiters and beneficiaries to be paid only for the initial visit—after which Buford could bill Medicaid for the dentures—and numerous beneficiaries never returned to IDA after receiving the cash bribe.  Buford stored hundreds of undelivered dentures on IDA’s premises, many of which had been billed to and paid for by Medicaid.  According to the plea, as part of the scheme, Buford maintained a post office box in Silver Spring, Maryland as IDA’s billing address and received the fraudulently obtained payments at that location. 

Based on the amount that Medicaid paid to Buford and IDA for dentures that were not delivered, the actual loss to Medicaid was at least $1,267,630, according to the press release from the Department of Justice.

Michael Lawlor, an attorney who represents Buford, could not be reached for comment Friday.

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