Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento dentist sentenced for health care fraud

It might not have been so bad had the dental school diploma on the wall of Dr. David Milton Lewis’ Sacramento office read Black & Decker.

That could have served as a warning to at least some of the innocent patients who unwittingly were subjected by Lewis to unnecessary dental work.

Instead, however, it read Washington University in St. Louis, which before its closure was one the leading dental schools in the country.

According to federal prosecutors, from 2008 to 2011, Lewis inflicted unnecessary and often painful dental work on employees of United Parcel Service and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars to which he was not entitled from the employees’ union health benefits plan. He also billed and collected on claims for work that was simply not performed, the prosecutors say.

Lewis admitted to these allegations when he pleaded guilty in January. He also admitted that, from 2009 through 2011, he received more than $2 million from Delta Health Systems on claims of services performed for UPS employees. This was more than a 400 percent increase in such bills over the two prior years. Payments from Delta went from approximately 10 percent of Lewis’ total revenue in 2007 and 2008 to 40 percent – and sometimes higher.

Court papers filed by the prosecutors describe how Lewis drilled into healthy teeth to install temporary fillings used by him to document nonexistent decay and justify his bills to the Northern California General Teamsters Security Fund, which is administered by Delta. He also performed unneeded root canals, the papers allege.

Lewis, 62, was sentenced Thursday to three years and 10 months in prison on his earlier guilty plea to health care fraud. The amount of loss suffered by the union health benefits plan remains in dispute and will be the subject of a June 23 restitution hearing.

The prosecutors say in court papers that their estimate of the loss at $1 million “is reasonable, if not conservative, given the overall nature of the scheme.” The defense, on the other hand, places the loss at $221,226.

Lewis solicited the business of UPS employees because their dental insurance is extraordinarily generous. It covers the employees and their dependents with no deductibles and no lifetime or annual limitations on benefits. The plan also covers 100 percent of the costs for preventive and restorative services, as well as artificial replacements for teeth and other parts of the mouth.

After graduating from dental school in 1981, Lewis returned to his hometown of Sacramento and set up a practice on Marconi Avenue, within 2 miles of El Camino High School, from which he graduated in 1971. In 2005, Lewis’ practice was named “Best Dental Office” by DP Consulting, a Chicago organization with approximately 1,500 member dentists.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189