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[MM Curator Summary]: Three brothers ran an absolutely massive dental empire, full of fraud. The thing that finally got em collared? Implanting unapproved medical devices they developed in the mouths of Medicaid patients. You paid them at least $4M in fraud just for the embezzling part.
Prosecutors say Bhaskar, Arun, and Niranjan Savani broke at least a dozen laws in their efforts to generate millions in profits between 2009 and last year.
Dreamstime / MCT
Federal authorities have accused the owners of a Montgomery County-based dental conglomerate of running their businesses like a criminal enterprise — bilking millions of dollars from government health-care programs, illegally importing foreign workers, and endangering patients by implanting unapproved medical devices in their mouths for profit.
Brothers Bhaskar Savani, 56, of Ambler; Arun Savani, 55, of Blue Bell; and Niranjan Savani, 51, of Ambler, broke at least a dozen laws in their efforts to generate more than $316 million in profits between 2009 and last year, prosecutors said in a sprawling 102-page indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Investigators also accused the siblings of laundering their illicit proceeds through hundreds of bank accounts and embezzling more than $4 million from nearly three dozen companies to cover personal expenses like a Hawaiian vacation home, college tuition for their children, and utilities and tax payments on their homes.
The charges against the Savanis and nine codefendants — which include counts of racketeering conspiracy, visa and health-care fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to distribute misbranded medical devices — are the result of a years-long investigation by nearly a dozen state and federal agencies into the empire the Savanis oversaw from a nondescript office park in Fort Washington.
Attorneys for the brothers balked at the government’s accusations, calling them a distortion of the Savani brothers’ companies and careers that now threatens to send them to prison for up to 20 years on the most serious count they face.
“The three brothers look forward to their day in court and cherish the concept that in this country that they have made their home, people are presumed innocent,” the lawyers said in a statement.
Viewed through a certain lens, the business empire the Savanis created since their arrival in the United States is an unquestionable success.
After emigrating from India, Bhaskar Savani, known as “Dr. B,” earned his dental degree from Temple University in 1995 and quickly set about building his practice into an empire.
Aside from his dental practices, he became an evangelist for the importation of Indian mangoes, persuading the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2007 to lift a 18-year ban, and expanded into real estate, becoming one of the financial backers of a proposed indoor velodrome in Valley Forge in 2006.
Meanwhile, he brought on brothers Arun, to oversee financial affairs for the businesses, and Niranjan, a fellow dentist, to help him expand his core dental businesses into an empire.
Today, they oversee more than 50 dental practices across states including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, and South Carolina and a bevy of associated companies focused on research and development of dental implant devices, employ more than 400 people, and serve thousands of patients each year, many from inner cities and other underserved areas where there are few practicing dentists.
Prosecutors say serving those low-income clients — especially those enrolled in government-funded health-care programs like Medicaid — was central to the Savani brothers’ grift.
Among other crimes alleged in the indictment, the Savanis are accused of relying on uncredentialed dentists to treat patients in violation of Medicaid rules.
Savani businesses allegedly required those dentists to falsely state that other licensed dental providers employed by their companies had performed treatments billed to Medicaid and required them to pay kickbacks to the doctors whose names they were using.
For instance, prosecutors said, between 2014 and 2018 Savani businesses submitted roughly 2,600 claims falsely stating that Niranjan Savani was the dentist performing procedures, when he was not even in the country at the time they were performed.
When authorities would catch on to the scheme and cancel Medicaid contracts with one Savani company, they’d have an employee open another — running it in name only — to land those contracts again, according to the indictment.
Between 2013 and last year, just one of those businesses — Allentown-based Smilekrafters Dental — earned roughly $80 million in Medicaid reimbursements under a contract it had fraudulently obtained, the document states.
But prosecutors said even as the Savanis were taking advantage of weaknesses in the Medicaid oversight, their companies were also exploiting foreign-born employees who worked for them.
The brothers recruited workers from India and elsewhere for jobs in the United States through a program meant to hire employees with specialized skills such as scientists, programmers, researchers, and analysts.
However, investigators say, many of the people for whom they helped secure visas ostensibly for jobs in the Savanis’ research-oriented companies, ended up in nonspecialized jobs running dental offices or as administrators being paid less than prevailing wage and required to kick back portions of their salaries to others in the companies.
The indictment paints one of the businesses run by the Savanis — Fort Washington-based EZ Biotek — as a front, filled with nonfunctioning lab equipment meant to fool immigration authorities when they would show up for periodic visits to verify those employees were working in active dental or chemistry research labs.
Still, some of the Savani companies’ research efforts were legitimate — including those at Fort Washington-based Osseolink USA, which starting in 2017 began developing a new kind of synthetic tooth implant for use in patients.
Though the implants had not yet received approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the brothers’ companies shipped prototypes in bags marked “not for human use” to several dental offices, where dentists employed by the brothers used them in the mouths of at least 18 patients, prosecutors said.
“Health care providers, who have a duty to practice in their patients’ best interests, are especially deceitful when they commit Medicaid fraud,” said Maureen R. Dixon, head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.
In addition to the criminal charges, prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of some 27 properties linked to the Savanis and their businesses in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Lehigh Counties as well as Iowa and Hawaii.
The brothers were released on bail pending trial after a brief initial court appearance Tuesday.