A Highland County dentist and dental assistant were among those indicted in what the Drug Enforcement Administration described as “a historic nationwide enforcement action involving 345 charged defendants across 51 federal districts, including more than 100 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals,” according to information posted by the DEA.

A press release announcing the “National Health Care Fraud and Opioid Takedown” said that nationwide, “defendants have been charged with submitting more than $6 billion in false and fraudulent claims to federal health care programs and private insurers, including more than $4.5 billion connected to telemedicine, more than $845 million connected to substance abuse treatment facilities, or ‘sober homes,’ and more than $806 million connected to other health care fraud and illegal opioid distribution schemes across the country.”

According to a federal indictment posted by the DEA, Dr. William Dalton Thomas of New Market Family Dentistry in Hillsboro and his former dental assistant Amanda Mathews have each been charged with seven counts of unlawful distribution and dispensing of controlled substances and one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful distribution and dispensing of controlled substances.

The case was filed Sept. 23 in the Southern District of Ohio.

According to the joint indictment, Thomas “prescribed controlled substances, including highly addictive opioids, as part of his practice” and was “the only individual … registered to prescribe controlled substances, and the only licensed dentist who practiced there.” Mathews — who worked for Thomas “from at least in or around 2010 through in or around August 2019” — had a dental radiography license but was not licensed “to perform any type of dental procedures, to become a dentist or to qualify as a registrant to prescribe controlled substances under state or federal guidelines.”

The seven unlawful distribution and dispensing counts stem from seven different incidents, spanning from December 2017 to April 2019. For each count, it is alleged that “Thomas, aided and abetted by others, including Mathews, did knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully dispense and distribute, and cause to be dispensed and distributed, outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose,” oxycodone to separate patients.

It is further alleged that “on or about Oct. 16, 2015, through on or about Aug. 28, 2019, in the Southern District of Ohio, and elsewhere, the defendants … knowingly and intentionally combined, conspired, confederated and agreed together with each other and other persons known and unknown to the grand jury, to unlawfully distribute and dispense oxycodone and diazepam, Schedule II and IV controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1).”

If convicted, forfeiture allegations in the indictment call for Thomas and Mathews to “forfeit to the United States of America any property constituting, or derived from, any property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, the offenses.”

That includes real or personal property “that constitutes or is derived, directly or indirectly, as the result of such violation; any DEA license(s) for Thomas; and any of the defendants’ property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, such violation.”

According to court documents, Thomas and Mathews have both made initial appearances as well as appearing for arraignment in federal court. Both defendants have entered not guilty pleas to all charges and have been released on an own recognizance bond, with conditions.

A status conference is currently scheduled for Dec. 16.

As previously reported in The Highland County Press, law enforcement officers and state investigators were at New Market Family Dentistry, located at 4503 U.S. 62 south of Hillsboro, on Aug. 28, 2019.

Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said representatives from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI), the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the Ohio State Dental Board and the Highland County Sheriff’s Office participated in the investigation.

On that day, the sheriff said no charges were filed, no arrests were made and the investigation was ongoing.

To read the DEA’s complete announcement of the national investigation, go to: https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2020/09/30/national-health-care-fraud-and-opioid-takedown-results-charges-against.

An indictment is merely a charge and is not evidence of guilt.