A Laredo dentist, who had previously tried his hand at plastic surgery, pleaded guilty to making false statements on bills to Texas Medicaid, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced Wednesday.
Dr. Carlos Armin Morales-Ryan, and his wife, orthodontist Dr. Nelia Patricia Garcia-Morales, own the Orthogenesis International Centre , a dental and orthodontics practice that derives "a substantial portion of their business" from "rendering services to Medicaid-eligible children," Magidson said in his release. Morales-Ryan billed the agency for a procedure on a date in October 2007 when the couple was actually vacationing in Hawaii. Similarly, his wife, Dr. Nelia Patricia Garcia-Morales, tried to be paid for a procedure conducted on March 23, 2007, when she and her husband were headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The couple will get five years probation and must pay back $686,545 to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Medicaid fraud is not Morales-Ryan's only problem: "Morales-Ryan currently is not licensed to practice dentistry in Texas due to an unrelated criminal proceeding," the release said. According to a state court document filed in 2008, the dentist was "indicted and arrested on thirteen counts of engaging in the practice of medicine without a license." He had performed tummy tucks, liposuction and breast augmentations.
The dentist argued that he was "qualified to perform the challenged procedures because he is a surgeon and, under the Texas Medical Practice Act, 'the terms "physician" and "surgeon" are synonyms,'" according to court documents. But in August 2009, he "pleaded guilty to seven counts of the third degree felony offense," reported the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a blog post accompanied by curious artwork. He received a five years in prison for those crimes, but had his sentence suspended and was placed on probation.