The local U.S. Attorney’s office is sinking its teeth into a prominent Beaumont orthodontist after he defrauded the government out of almost $1 million in false Medicaid claims.
Seventy-year-old Terrence Ewing Syler pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud June 18 in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District office, Syler owns Syler Orthodontics in Beaumont, where from Jan. 2007 to Oct. 2012, he submitted false claims for palatal expanders which were never given to his patients.
In an interview with U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, the Eastern District’s top lawyer said Syler capitalized on the complicated nature of Medicaid reimbursements to keep his scheme secret.
“He said he was installing, billing for, those palette extenders, devices which typically you do to create space for orthodontic appliances, but it’s an unusual procedure,” Bales said. “And in Medicaid, you’ve got to be pretty messed up to get something like that.”
Bales said Syler was forthcoming with investigators, who eventually checked the dental work of many of Syler’s patients to find he did not in fact install the devices Medicaid paid him to install.
“He did display contrition. He was amenable to taking responsibility,” Bales said. “Some of these doctors you have to fight every inch to get them to come to the bar of justice, but that wasn’t the case with Mr. Syler.”
According to the plea agreement, Syler must repay some $829,000 and could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison in the coming months.
Bales said Syler easily repaid the sum.
“He’s ponied up the money,” Bales said. “All of it.”
As to the question of additional fraud after years of being in business, Bales said it’s possible the government did not find everything.
“To say we got every dollar back, I wouldn’t ever say that about any case,” Bales said. “But that’s a fairly good ballpark estimate on what he should reimburse the government based on these palette extension devices.”
Bales was sure to give credit to a whistleblower who worked within Syler’s practice for tipping his office as to the illegalities. He said whistleblowers are key to exposing government waste and fraud in government and area businesses.
“We’re looking for other people like the whistleblower in the Syler case to come forward,” he said.
For some, money is no object, but Bales said whistleblower statutes entitle those who risk coming forward to a portion of any settlement.
“Some of that money will actually go to the whistleblower,” Bales said.