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Dentist Trial: Defense Attacks Former Employee's Credibility

Government rests its case against Dr. Hamada Makarita

Updated

After the prosecution rested Thursday, the defense began to build its case that Dr. Hamada Makarita's longtime office manager has a history of impropriety and has falsely accused the Oakton dentist of illegally distributing narcotics.

Makarita, 51, is facing charges of  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.

Before the defense began its argument — much of which revolves around discrediting his former office manager, Karen Derder, who earlier testified to having first-hand knowledge of Makarita committing health care fraud and dispensing controlled substances — the prosecution called the last of its witnesses.

The prosecution ended its case Thursday with final testimony from its expert witness, Dr. Lawrence Singer, who reiterated his stance that Makarita overprescribed the patients to whom he is accused of dispensing controlled substances. 

Special Agent Joseph Parker, with the FBI, also testified Thursday, outlining how the case unfolded over the course of about two years. Serving on the FBI's health care squad, Parker came across the case after Makarita filed a complaint accusing his longtime office manager, Karen Derder, of embezzling funds from the practice's 401k and stealing a prescription pad. In an interview with Parker, Derder accused Makarita of illegally providing narcotics to his and his staff's friends and family.

Parker said he pulled Makarita's report from the Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) and noticed a few patients who had multiple prescriptions and high pill counts in a relatively short period of time. When he showed Makarita the report, he said the dentist took a few seconds to confirm each of the patients were his — "suspicious" behavior considering Makarita had suggested the FBI pull the PMP, Parker said.

Because of the inconsistencies between the PMP and patient files, Parker submitted the case to the Department of Health Professions for review. 

He also testified Makarita admitted to having vicodin in his system upon his March 15 arrest before taking a urine analysis, the results of which were not presented to the court, and told the FBI he had received the pills from Reem Hamoud — one of four patients to whom Makarita is accused of illegally dispensing drugs.

Also testifying for the government, Janet Brumbaugh outlined her relationship with Makarita, which went from patient-doctor to romantic in 2007. She claimed Makarita provided her with narcotics several times throughout their relationship without a medical reason, one time calling in a prescription while driving her to the pharmacy to pick it up.

"I feel like it was the beginning of my addiction," said Brumbaugh, who has been in recovery since 2009. 

Brumbaugh, a former model, also testified Makarita took compromising pictures of her after she had taken drugs he provided her. She said he emailed her the pictures and told him she felt "disgusted" he would take the photos.

The prosecution ended its case with testimony from Dr. Sameh Kassem, who is related by marriage through Makarita's ex-wife and worked with Makarita for a few months soon after receiving his dentistry degree in the mid-'90s.

The FBI found several claim checks from Aetna addressed to Kassem but deposited with Makarita's signature for dental work done on Makarita's parents. Kassem testified to never receiving nor cashing the checks, noting he once received an explanation of benefits for a claim check in his name then called Makarita's office, spoke with Derder about the mistake and assumed the problem had been resolved.

Defense Begins to Build Case

The defense, as represented by James Tate, Douglas Bywater and Allan Robertson of the Vienna firm Tate, Bywater and Fuller, began its case Thursday with testimony from Reem Hamoud. 

Makarita is accused of distributing illegal narcotics to Hamoud and other patients. Hamoud, who admits to having an extramarital affair with Makarita while also being treated by him, said Makarita has prescribed narcotics on several occasions but only for dental purposes. She said she has had extensive dental work — extractions, bridges, gum surgery, full mouth reconstruction and temporomendibular joint disorder (TMD) — and a low tolerance for pain. 

"The pain was excruciating ... It was unbearable," said Hamoud, who added each of Makarita's prescriptions coincided with that pain.

The defense then called a string of witnesses to testify to Makarita's character: Barbara Lunsford, his longtime dental assistant who said the second assistant once complained he asked her to pick up a prescription in her name but otherwise knew of no wrongdoing on Makarita's part; Danielle Larson, Makarita's dential hygienist; Laila Mazeas, a childhood friend. 

And then came a string of witnesses whose testimony attempts to discredit Derder: a friend of Derder's who admitted to receiving prescriptions from her; a patient who claimed she exposed herself to him; Derder's daughter's former teacher who said Derder secured her a prescription of diazepam (valium); a patient who dealt with Derder after being billed multiple times for the same dental procedure; a patient who said Derder would tell her to call anytime if she needed more of her prescription; a former lawyer for Makarita who said a lawyer connected to Derder called to say she would stop accusing Makarita if he dropped the case against her complaining of embezzlement; and Makarita's parents, who testified to the extensive dental work they knew of no rule from Aetna and the World Bank — where Makarita's father was employed — excluding one's qualification for claims if dental procedures were performed by a family member. 

William Beatty, a close friend and patient of Makarita's, testified to the dentist's character. He said any narcotics he received coincided with dental pain and had never seen Makarita drink or take drugs throughout their friendship.

He talked of Makarita's tendency to forgive charges when patients could not fully afford a procedure, which Beatty experienced firsthand when money became tight during his divorce.

Friday's proceedings ended with the testimony of Dr. Vincent Clark, an expert witness for the defense who says he believes Makarita has a tendency to underprescribe, not overprescribe. 

"I think it's almost unethical to call a patient a liar when it comes to pain," Clark said. "People come to us for relief."

He explained the TMD's symptoms in particular are continual — it does not necessarily coincide with a particular dental procedure. Nor can one read a patient's chart and assume that a prescription given is for the same procedure they had that day, Clark said, as patients will often describe other problems they are experiencing during the examination. 

Clark's testimony will continue when the trial begins again 9:30 a.m. today at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Related Coverage

  • 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

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Thetruth November 14, 2012 at 04:23 AM
The prosecution has a tiny handful of scummy, questionable witnesses (including Parker, the FBI agent who has been proven to be a liar and one who threatens witnesses), circumstantial evidence (at best), and believes a con artist, thief & convicted felon. To call Brumbaugh a 'model' is hardly true - the woman is a porn star who will shed her clothes for anyone. Look her up - she's naked all over the web and has many soft-porn videos anyone can buy. Think this lady really needs to be drugged to take her clothes off? NOT! Yeah right, she was disgusted, uh huh... And on the Dr's side, there's a string of patients, employees, friends, fellow dentists, and his mother and father ALL saying they have NEVER seen him drink a drop of alcohol OR take any pills. And the Feds are claiming he's a druggie. Right! Funny how they 'don't know' the whereabouts of the first of many urine samples they took from him (starting on the DAY) of his arrest. Think our FBI is honest? THINK AGAIN!!! They'll stop at NOTHING to win a case. I think I'm gonna write about this 'abuse of power' to President Obama's office. I'm sure he'd be very proud of those who are supposed to be in 'public service.' Very Sad.
ymmarrtin November 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM
I totally agree. The feds have been getting away with this behavior for years. I am fed up with it and embarassed that this is "our Government". Parker is a liar and Rossi knows it and nothing at all will happen to them. UNBELIEVABLE. If Dr. M doesn't win this case, I will be even more shocked and outraged. Keep praying.
ymmarrtin November 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM
Whoever the defense Investigator is did a GREAT job. Also, none of defense witnesses were apparently threatnened and were happy to be there. There were so many defense witnesses, all good hard working people and so few prosecution witnesses, and they were well..shall we say..less than desirable people.
DLDoucette November 14, 2012 at 11:31 PM
So I guess all FBI agents get to lie or just say "I don't recall" to every question defense asks them.FBI Agent Linehart went on today and that was his answer to everything. I'm suprised he can recall his own name. He and Agent Parker need to look for other employment.
Christina Oates November 15, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Question: What happens to Karen Derder since she was obviously untruthful to the Govt. and to the Defense? She should lose her immunity. As well as Candace Crowe, her sister.
Oh I see... November 15, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Yes... they both perjured themselves. Unfortunately, they'll probably both walk. But one day, it will all catch up with them. It's inevitable.
Oh I see... November 15, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Speaking of defense witnesses happy to be there, one of them flew in from California today, just to testify on Dr. Makarita's behalf, and then flew back.
Sherry November 15, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Sounds like this is going to the jury soon -- I pray they see through the deception. I also hope the Culpeper police are ready to arrest Derder for embezzling funds from her kid's basketball team.
Thetruth November 21, 2012 at 07:29 PM
PARKER LIED UNDER OATH and so did the second 'surprise' FBI agent who couldn't remember ANYTHING about that day, except for the 'drugs' he CLAIMS Dr. Makarita told him they'd find. HE ALSO LIED UNDER OATH. Judge Brinkema said she would get the results of the urine test they made hime take the day they arrested him. They got the result the next morning and it was: N E G A T I V E Brinkema instructed the jury to 'desregard' any notion the Dr. Makarita was a drug user, because EVERY SINGLE ONE of his drug tests (including the very first one - a surprise test) were N E G A T I V E. And while I am at it, how the h3ll can a jury of laypersons even BEGIN to determine whether a certain prescription was medically warranted?!!!! I do not think they've been all trained to read an X-Ray, a medical chart, and understand a Doctor's 'short-hand.' I sure can't tell an X-Ray from a Gamma-Ray!
Thetruth November 21, 2012 at 07:30 PM
PART TWO This case just gets worse and worse and worse....very sad that we are witnessing thisnsad excuse for a JUST legal system. Where's the justice?!!! A convicted felon, theif, liar, conspirator, drug-dealer, embezzler and crappy mom (who hates her daughter and wants someone else to care for her!), along with a drug-addict stripper, porn-star have IMUNITY! IMUNITY, REALLY?!!! These two are the ones that belong in prison!!!! This case may very well rise all the way up to the Supreme Court. There hasn't been a case of this type heard by the Supreme Court since the mid-1970s. This is a HUGE case for the medical profession at large, and for our health care system, whose costs are spiraling out of control BECAUSE OF CRAP LIKE THIS FRIVOLOUS CASE WHERE DOCTORS HAVE TO SPEND A GAGILLION DOLLARS TO DEFEND THEMSELVES!!!! Arghhhhhhh!!!! Crazy!!!
Thetruth November 21, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I'd bet money that the prosecution got to that jury somehow - they were not sequestered. I would NOT put it past them, seeing how dirty they've been playing. Does NOT make sense that the jury didn't hang on a SINGLE count (in either direction). Do you mean to tell me that they were truly unanimous on EVERY SINGLE count? Not a SINGLE juror had a 'Reasonable doubt' on ANY of the charges?!!!! Please..... Something is VERY, VERY fishy with this case and I would LOVE to see a GAO audit of how this case was conducted. Hey that just gave me a great idea!!! Anyway, this is like Watergate with phones being tapped, offices bugged, auto movements tracked, and surveillance everywhere - the FBI thinks they are above the law (including perjury) and that people are stupid - people aren't. The truth SHALL prevail in the end. God will see to that.
daniel mcghan December 10, 2012 at 05:47 PM
All I have to say is karma will get you Karen Derder

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