Dentist Trial: Makarita Takes the Stand
Jury expected to begin deliberations this afternoon
In a nearly six-hour testimony that spanned over two days, Dr. Hamada Makarita denied all 15 charges against him and insisted a former employee concocted a narrative about him as retaliation for reporting the embezzlement of his Oakton dental practice's 401k.
Makarita, 51, is facing charges of conspiracy, health care fraud, aggravated identity theft and 12 counts of dispensing controlled substances. Makarita, who owns a practice on Chain Bridge Road in Oakton, pleaded not guilty to the charges in June.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Rossi, Special Assistant United States Attorney Mazen Basrawi and Special Assistant United States Attorney Danya Atiyeh are representing the prosecution.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema is presiding over the case, which will hear closing arguments and enter jury deliberations this afternoon.
James Tate, the dentist's lawyer of the Vienna firm Tate, Bywater and Fuller, took Makarita through each of the charges, allowing Makarita to explain the medical reason behind the prescriptions he wrote and to deny ever writing about a handful of the narcotics.
Makarita said his "go-to" prescription for most patients is two extra strength tylenol and two advil, but oftentimes he knows "that's not going to cut the mustard" and prescribes a stronger medication from the start.
In the case of Reem Hamoud, he said her extensive dental work often required medication in between procedures. He noted he had prescribed more non-narcotics than narcotics to her during the time frame in question — 2007 to 2010. While he prescribed her a total of 680 pills of narcotics, he prescribed her 1,291 pills of non-narcotics over the same time period.
He said he never knew his former girlfriend, Janet Brumbaugh, who Makarita is also accused of illegally providing narcotics, had an addiction to prescription medication. He explained the compromising pictures he took of Brumbaugh, saying one was taken simply because he thought it was funny she passed out with one boot on and one boot off. He challenged the prosecution's implication she was not wearing underwear in the photo that showed her lying in bed pantless with her eyes closed.
He said he emailed Brumbaugh the photo. Though she testified she was "disgusted" by the email, he said she laughed.
"She's used to taking pictures," he said of the former fitness model.
As for work done on Makarita's parents marked as being performed by Dr. Sameh Kassem in the practice's computer system, Makarita said it was a misunderstanding. He believed Kassem knew of some sort of record-keeping glitch, saying Derder told him she had spoken with Kassem. He also said he continually asked her to figure out the problem and to make sure Kassem's name was no longer used.
Makarita also laid blame on Derder, who he described as a master manipulator who somehow convinced the FBI to arrest him for trumped up charges rather than her for embezzlement, which he brought to the attention of law enforcement in April 2010 — an investigation that eventually turned to him and not her.
Makarita found out about Derder's history with fraud during her first stint working in his office, but gave her the benefit of the doubt. Then he discovered evidence she had submitted a false claim while working for him, so he fired her and did not report the incident to authorities. Then a few years later, he decided to give her a second shot, saying she seemed to have matured. He described her as a good worker who knew how to get things done.
"I just didn't know about this whole other life and agenda she had," Makarita testified.
Also testifying earlier this week, Ghajiibah Campbell — a certified instructor of the software program, Dentrix, often used in dental practices — explained how procedures and insurance claims are logged into the system. She said though entries from different people could be marked under one username, certain actions — specifically entry deletions — would prompt a second login and would only be accessible to the system's administrators, which were former office manager Karen Derder and Makarita.
She also said she set up the system with Derder, who was provided with every username's password — which could not be changed in earlier versions of the system and then likely unchanged even when they could be altered in more recent versions of the software.
Makarita was not trained on the administrative aspect of Dentrix, Campbell said — only the clinical. When administrative tasks were marked under Makarita's username, the many adjustments and mistakes showed signs he did not have a firm understanding of the system, said Campbell, who has been trained to detect signs of fraud in Dentrix.
"[It said to me] he knows the clinical side, but doesn't know the administrative [of the software]," she said, expressing doubts he could have made the suspicious alterations to the software's audit trail for work done on Derder and Candace Crowe.
The court will hear closing arguments 9:30 a.m. today, with jury deliberations expected to begin early this afternoon.
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- Dentist Trial: Experts Begin Testimony for Prosecution
- Dentist Trial: Both Sides Argue Abuse of Power
- Oakton Dentist Pleads Not Guilty
- Grand Jury Indicts Oakton Dentist on 15 Charges
- Accused Dentist Says Witness Is Fired Employee
- Oakton Dentist Arrested for Distributing Narcotics