Dental Hero Turns Sour

Stethoscope on 100 dollar bills symbolizing financial surveillance

Denver “Dickie” Tackett, who has practiced dentistry for more than 30 years, and is considered something of a saint in his hometown of McDowell, Kentucky has been convicted of Medicaid fraud. This was surprising to some of his patients who saw him as local hero.

Patients claimed Dr. Tackett would often treat and pay for prescriptions for patients that could not afford them. One patient shared that Tackett worked overtime on Christmas Eve so he could fix her son’s front tooth from an accident. (Sounds like an upstanding citizen and great dentist at first glance.) So why does this doting, hard-working dentist owe over a sum of more than $90,000 to both Medicaid and the federal government?

It turns out that Tackett’s charitable persona was overridden by his devious activity behind the closed doors of his practice. The dentist pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud for lying about the services he provided to his patients for 15 years. He submitted claims for unnecessary procedures such as advanced tooth extractions, when he performed simple extractions. He also submitted claims for unauthorized emergency care, and he received payment for procedures that came as a result of an earlier unreasonable extraction. (No wonder sedation dentistry exists.)

As if that were not enough, Dr. Tackett improperly prescribed medication to his patients. Although this claim was not part of his eventual sentencing, Tackett was charged 15 counts of opioid painkiller distribution. (With all that unnecessary tooth extraction going on, there’s no doubt that his patients wanted a few painkillers.) 

During the investigation process, patients revealed that they had succumbed to drug addiction since taking Dr. Tackett’s prescriptions. These unfortunate victims blamed him for worsening their drug problems by repeatedly prescribing the same addictive medication.

As part of his plea agreement, Tackett agreed to give up his Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) registration. (Without this ID, healthcare professionals are not able to lawfully prescribe controlled substances.) Tackett’s days as a dentist are now over.

Surprisingly, Tackett was sentenced to a mere four months in prison along with another six months of home detention. He must also pay back restitution of $70,012 to Medicaid and $20,000 to the government. (What story do you believe the most – a compassionate dentist whose actions were misunderstood? Or a cash-hungry dentist who took advantage of his patients to make some extra cash?)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Kentucky dentist who pulled teeth that weren’t bad sentenced to prison,” published by the Lexington Herald Leader, on December 17, 2020.

An Eastern Kentucky dentist who admitted getting higher payments from Medicaid through inflated bills has been sentenced to four months in prison.

Denver “Dickie” Tackett also must serve six months of home detention after his prison sentence, repay $70,012 to Medicaid and pay the government $20,000.

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Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.