A national dental chain linked to two child deaths in Arizona will have to pay nearly $24 million to the United States government and 17 states for submitting false claims to state Medicaid programs.
DOJ officials announced Wednesday that the agency has settled False Claims Act allegations against dental company Benevis LLC and more than 130 affiliated Kool Smiles dental clinics.
According to the DOJ, between January 2009 and December 2011, Kool Smiles clinics in 17 states knowingly submitted false claims for unnecessary baby root canals, tooth extractions and stainless steel crowns.
"Billing Medicaid programs for dental procedures that are not necessary contributes to the soaring costs of healthcare," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler. "When healthcare providers put vulnerable patients at risk by performing medically unnecessary procedures to achieve financial goals, we will take action."
ABC15 has actively been looking into Kool Smiles in Arizona, and has discovered two deaths tied to procedures performed at the Yuma office. The deaths are not connected to Wednesday's settlement.
Zion's uncle told ABC15 the child's parents took him to Kool Smiles on December 16, 2017 for a crown and filling, and somehow either during or after the process, it appears Zion stopped breathing.
According to family, Zion was transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center and then flown to Maricopa County, where he died several days later.
ABC15 confirmed the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office is handling the case and the cause and manner of death remain pending.
A second death linked to the same dental office was also uncovered.
According to the family, the four-year-old girl went into Kool Smiles for dental treatment to deal with an abscess, a tooth was pulled, and then she started showing signs of fever.
The family took her back to the dentist the next day, but was sent home, and reportedly told that the girl would be fine.
According to court papers, the child died a few days later.