Dentist Trial: Experts Begin Testimony for Prosecution

Fellow dentist says Dr. Hamada Makarita prescribed medications without legitimate dental purpose

The trial of an Oakton doctor accused of illegally distributing narcotics and health care fraud continued Wednesday, bringing former employees and expert testimony to the stand for the U.S. government.

Dr. Hamada 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.

The government spent Wednesday afternoon questioning its expert witnesses, starting with Cheryl Hodgson, a senior investigator with the Department of Health Professions, who worked on the case against Makarita. A representative with Aetna's special investigations unit also testified regarding the alleged fradulent insurance claims for work Makarita did on his parents but submitted under the name of another dentist, Dr. Sammeh Hassem, in the years after Hassem worked in their practice.

The day ended with testimony from Dr. Lawrence Singer, who has a practice in Old Towne Alexandria and D.C., and has full privileges at George Washington University Hospital. 

Singer told the 14-member jury that dental work rarely requires strong pain medications, such as Vicodin or Percocet, with most procedures requiring nothing stronger than Tylenol or ibuprofen. When strong medication is necessary, small doses to last the patient a few days should be prescribed. 

Singer said the patient files in question from Makarita's office do not show dental work around the time those patients had prescriptions recorded, as shown through the Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program, and many of the prescribed dosages far exceed that which is necessary to manage pain associated with most dental work.

Today, the defense will have the opportunity to cross-examine Singer. The prosecution expects to rest later today. The trial at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria is expected to extend into next week.

In the morning, the proceedings picked up in the middle of the defense's cross-examination of Karen Derder, the practice's former office manager and employee for nearly 20 years. Makarita terminated Derder's employment in April 2010, accusing her of stealing from the practice's 401k program. Derder said she believes he fired her because she began expressing concern about his drug use — a habit he says he does not have.

The line of questioning from the defense lawyer, James Tate of the Vienna firm of Tate, Bywater & Fuller, continued its attempt to discredit Derder — a key witness in the U.S. government's case against Makarita because she claims to have witnessed Makarita perpetrate insurance fraud, distribute narcotics illegally to patients and take the drugs himself. 

The government also called Derder's sister Candace Crowe, who is a patient of Makarita's, to the stand. After a few years of attending the practice, Crowe began receiving insurance claim checks directly rather than having them sent to the doctor's office.

Crowe — who, like her sister, is protected by an immunity agreement with the government — said Makarita asked her to cash or deposit the checks then reimburse him to help with his practice's cash flow, believing it would help with appearances while going through his divorce proceedings. She said she did not think it would be insurance fraud because she saw it as a legal check made out in her name for procedures the doctor performed.

Before the U.S. Attorney's Office's legal team began calling its expert witnesses, they asked a former dental assistant to offer her testimony. Masooda Azad, who said she was fired in April because the doctor believed her to be against him after the investigation began, described Makarita as an intimidating and demanding supervisor who often asked her to run both business and personal errands with precise and often unnecessary instructions on how to carry them out.

Azad said she twice discovered Makarita prescribing unnecessary medication under her name. Once she went through with picking it up. The second time she noticed how much was being charged to her own insurance, asked the pharmacist to make sure nobody could pick up the medication for her, then returned to the office without the pills. She testified that she then lied to Makarita, saying the pharmacy did not have the pills. Makarita became angry, she said, but never asked her to do it again.

The case continues at the U.S. District Court at 9:30 a.m. today. 

To read previous articles on this case, click here.

Related Coverage

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  • Grand Jury Indicts Oakton Dentist on 15 Charges
  • Accused Dentist Says Witness Is Fired Employee
  • Oakton Dentist Arrested for Distributing Narcotics
Sherry November 08, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I'm disgusted by how this good man is being dragged through the mud -- cannot believe the government gave this karen derder and her sister immunity -- my husband and i, both long time patients of Dr Makarita, are convinced based on our own experience with karen, that she was the one doing the prescribing....and to the dentist who said dental procedures only require tylenal, i guess he doesn't do root canals -- they are trying to frame Dr M
Bradford LaPolla November 09, 2012 at 12:30 AM
I too do not believe 99% of what the the government is alledging, I think the government loves convictions and is willing to excuse the crimes of Karen Derder and pay for expert testimony in order to prosecute a high profile Dentist. How much do the experts get to testify anyway.
Mike W November 09, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Around $50,000
Mike W November 09, 2012 at 11:13 AM
He got over $50,000, and makes $500.00/hour. He's not even qualified to be an expert. Dr Makarita has far more education than he does. Govt. is looking losing this case. Also, thier FBI Investigator is not truthful at all either. It makes me really wonder what our Govt. has turned into. Very corrupt. Very sad. We should all pray that truth will prevail and Dr Makarita will be cleared. What if this had happened to you? All because you tried to fire someone. Karen is the one who they should have on trial.
Mike W November 09, 2012 at 11:14 AM
lol, meant to say Govt. is losing this case!
Thetruth November 10, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Even worse, this OAKTON PATCH REPORTER, obviously in court, is ONLY REPORTING THE PROSECUTION'S SIDE!!!!!!!!!!! I do NOT see UNBIASED reporting here!!!!!!!!! We are the words from the cross-examinations? These happen IN-LINE right after they testify for the prosecution!!!! There is NO time delay!!!! I see NONE of DEFENSE SUCCESSES, WHICH ARE MANY!!!! I suspect that the *ITCH REPORTER (and the PATCH) are being paid by the Feds TOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Wouldn't surprise me ONE BIT! I have specific knowledge of the CROOOOOKED, downright ILLEGAL practices the Feds have used in this case - Only because THEY DON'T WANT TO LOOSE!! They have other cases IN LINE after this one, and THEIR SUCCESS IN BEING ABLE TO PROSECUTE THOSE CASES RESTS ON THIS MAKARITA CASE!!!! -Continued-
Thetruth November 10, 2012 at 04:36 AM
-Part 2- It's all a BIG GAME to THEM. It totally disgusts me how f'd up our legal system is. Here's a highly regarded, highly educated, very prominent (dentist's dentist) being made to look like a drug pusher, womanizer, and crook. When in reality, they have chosen the most vile, scummy people on earth (including SINGER, who is a fraud himself, misrepresenting his credentials is only ONE example) AS GOVERNMENT WITNESSES - COME ON!!!! The JURY IS NOT STUPID - THE FEDS LOOK LIKE BUMBLING FOOLS. Our government is really, really, really messed up people. It's actually very sad. Hopefully, the JURY sees through the governments BS. It's a three ring circus on the PROSECUTION'S SIDE. They have feeble evidence - all twisted to look bad. The DEFENSE will PREVAIL because the SHADOW OF DOUBT is as BIG AS THE SKY ITSELF. STOPPPPPP WASTING OUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS YOU FOOLS!!! Sorry for yelling, but I AM YELLING! I am really pissed - can you tell?
Thetruth November 10, 2012 at 04:41 AM
No WONDER nobody wants to practice medicine in this country! EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR must look over their shoulder for fear of being PROSECUTED! So those who need the care (and ASSOCIATED DRUGS) don't get it - all for fear that some stupid person (like DERDER) will frame them and make them look like criminals. One by one, those who have lied, mislead, threatened, and coerced (YES, YOU FEDS!) will eventually get their owns justice served to them because GOD is the ultimate judge and he KNOWS what they are doing, and HOW they are doing it. Okay, I now rest my case.
Oh I see... November 10, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Why is this reporter not reporting the defense's side?? Is it because the actual truth is far less interesting than the false accusations? This author has been biased from the very beginning. Ms. Trifone, if you are going to report responsibly, then you need to report both sides. Do you not realize that you are helping to ruin this poor man's excellent reputation in the community, based on false accusations from a former employee and convicted felon, that the feds want to believe? Do you not realize that Dr. Makarita is a human being, going through a really hard time? What if this were you? Wouldn't you want unbiased reporting on your own reputation? Where is your reporting on the strong defense? For instance, why have you not mentioned that Dr. Singer, the govt's "expert" dentist, totally misrepresented his credentials? That he was paid $50, 000 to say what the govt. instructed him to say? That Dr. Makarita is far more credentialed than this Singer guy? What about the two witnesses who said they have never been patients of Dr. Makarita's and had never met him, and testified that Karen Derder wrote prescriptions for them without Dr. Makarita's knowledge? What about the defense's witnesses, who said they have never seen Makarita take drugs, and who know for a fact that he doesn't even drink alchohol? What about Makarita's office staff, who all said that Makarita never seemed high or on drugs in all the years that they've worked for him? (see continued)
Oh I see... November 10, 2012 at 02:08 PM
What about the defense's expert witness (who is one of 4!), a dentist who is far more credentialed than Dr. Singer, who said that all of the prescriptions named in the indictment were all legitimate, and that Makarita actually underprescribed??? What about the former patient, who socialized occasionally with Dr. Makarita, who was supposedly "offended" by a fuzzy photo that he took of her (she had clothes on!), yet she has hundreds and hundreds of nude, explicit, professional photographs of herself all over the internet? Really? Also, what about her testimony that she became a drug addict after becoming a patient of Dr. Makarita's, yet the defense PROVED that she was a major drug addict years before she ever became his patient? Not only was she a drug addict, but she works as a pharmacy tech? How convenient. Do you really think she is a credible witness? These are just a few of many examples of the defense's side, and the defense is just barely getting started btw. Come on Ms. Trifone, Oakton Patch reporter... it's time you start reporting both sides.
Sherry November 10, 2012 at 03:12 PM
This trumped up case against Dr. M just makes me angry. I can find Karen Derder's arrest records ON LINE in 1992 for multiple forgeries -- duh -- do you think someone like that is capable of forging his name and using his DEA # for prescriptions? Stealing his prescript pads? Pills coming in under her and her sister's names? Clearly signing and cashing checks from insurance companies that are forgeries (you can see those on line too, not his signature)They are the dope dealers...so the FBI/DEA instead of prosecuting Derder and Crowe (the two sisters from Hell) have given them IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION IN THIS CASE, and instead have gone after Makarita, who turned them in.....is our legal system screw up or what? What is criminal here, is how this is being reported, and I want to ask why Derder and Crowe were let off the hook -- especially after one "patient" admitted dropping by to see Derder for pills which she sold to him and he admitted in an unsealed affadavit that Derder was a scam artist and the dentist knew nothing about what she was doing behind his back" until he fired her. To protect her behind, while he reported her to the police, being the experienced convicted felon she is, she ran to the FBI and cut a deal. Justice will never occur in this case -- i hope the good doctor is cleared, but his named will have been tarnished by this b_t_ch, and she and her sister have once again scammed the system.
Sherry November 10, 2012 at 03:16 PM
PS you folks in Culpepper County, I noticed Derder is listed as a person to send money to support the local high school sports team -- i think it's the Lady Challengers or something, whatever team her kid plays on. I hope somebody there is paying attention to what is going on, and conducts an audit of any account this grifter has been allowed to have contact with. I was shocked to see parents being told to contact this woman to help support the team.
Oh I see... November 10, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Lol guess what Sherry? The Culpeper ladies ARE paying attention... They turned her in for STEALING all the money from the fundraiser for her daughter's basketball team!! Guess who managed the fundraiser? Karen Derder!! Go figure! So now she is stealing from children! After these ladies turned her in (in June!), she was under investigation by the Culpeper police for embzzlement. Here's the zinger... the FBI instructed the Culpeper police to put the investigation on hold, because she is a witness for the Makarita case!! How effed up is our justice system??? Karen Derder, WHILE under immunity for the Makarita case, had the balls to steal from her daughter's basketball team!! She is a career criminal and just couldn't help herself. And still.... she has not gone down for any of her crimes. One day her crimes will catch up to her and when they do, I hope they finally nail her to a jail cell!!
Sherry November 10, 2012 at 04:10 PM
WOW! unbelievable....well you can only coverup this garbage for so long....and then it all starts rolling out.....Derder is a career criminal....our justice system is screwed up. Oakton patch, why aren't you reporting on the Culpeper "alleged" embezzlement of Derder? This just proves they are railroading Makarita -- while they took extreme measures to protect the real criminal from prosecution. Someone in the FBI is going to be held accountable for this abuse of the law.
Sherry November 10, 2012 at 04:15 PM
More thoughts....and you know the reason the FBI told the Culpeper police to hold off on the investigation is because they don't want their "star witness" to appear anymore uncredible than she already is......i wonder if this has come up while she has been on the stand.....and if the judge will allow it's discussion....to me it's material, as it provides more insight into her character, or rather lack of character.
Oh I see... November 10, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Exactly. Unfortunately the judge wouldn't allow discussion of this. Since there is not currently and open investigation - thanks to the Feds - it is considered hearsay at this point. Of course the Feds knew that would happen. Unbelievable.
SB November 10, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Nicole Trifone - You really should take a more critical look at this case if you want to report on a truly remarkable story. The FBI agent who began this case was on his first field assignment and based his entire case on Derder, apparently before understanding her criminal background. Rather than eat crow, the Feds were hoping they could steamroll Makarita. Surprise! He's willing and able to fight back. Same thing happened to a TX doctor, who won his case and then won suit against the Feds for $1.5M in damages. Interesting how little reporting there is about the Feds abuses. I'll bet the agent who started this case will end up unemployed. Too costly of a rookie mistake and Makarita's team will extract their well-deserved pound of flesh before this is over.
Oh I see... November 11, 2012 at 02:48 PM
This is Karen Derder's Criminial record, which is public, and can be found by googling Virginia Judiciary Case Search. Her maiden name was Crowe in 1992. She was found guilty (and pled guilty) on 12 counts of forgery and 12 counts of uttering. She had a one year suspended sentence and paid a fine. Hmmm, might she have forged Dr. Makarita's signatures for false claims and prescriptions? You decide... CaseNumber Defendant Charge Hear Date Status CR92000077-01 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH FORGERY 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000077-02 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH UTTER 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000078-01 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH FORGERY 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000078-02 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH UTTER 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000079-01 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH FORGERY 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000079-02 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH UTTER 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000080-01 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH FORGERY 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000080-02 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH UTTER 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000081-01 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH FORGERY 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000081-02 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH UTTER 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000082-01 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH FORGERY 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000082-02 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH UTTER 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000083-01 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH FORGERY 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000083-02 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH UTTER 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000084-01 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH FORGERY 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea CR92000084-02 CROWE, KAREN LEIGH UTTER 10/28/1992 Guilty Plea
Sherry November 11, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Exactly oh I see, you and I were able to pull up her background info with minimal effort doing an internet search, how come the feds didn't do their due diligence with this woman before they granted her and her sister immunity from prosecution in this case?
Oh I see... November 11, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I'm sure they knew exactly who they were dealing with and were fully aware of her criminal record. Who would they rather go after though? A low life criminal from Culpeper....who cares... a well-known prestigious dentist? Yes, a much bigger deal. If they went after her, it wouldn't even make it in the local paper. Yet here we are on the Oakton Patch, because they went after him instead. This is all because he called the authorities after he discovered false insurance claims made out to her sister, and noticed $50 K mysteriously missing from his 401 K. She struck a deal with them and then they turned on him. Our justice system is seriously screwed up.
Sherry November 11, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Well decent people don't like to see our judicial system misused this way....this is about letting ego and "winning" at all cost get in the way of what is right...I have faith in our jury system to see through this -- and seriously hope the Dr sues for the extensive damage that ignorant and criminal people have inflicted on him, his family his livelihood, and his good name.
Thetruth November 13, 2012 at 04:07 AM
The truth is - the Feds have egg on their face. They have spent MILLIONS of OUR tax payer money over the past two and a half years on this case and if they pull out now, they will all have to answer to their bosses (yes they do have people to whom they are accountable). Can you imagine the questions they would have to answer?!!! Why didn't you do your job and INVESTIGATE? Well, they did investigate, but they sure did a crappy, superficial job and turned their cheeks to the truth - right there in the records - because the junior, rookie, desk-job FBI investigator [Parker] was blinded by the apparent glory of nailing one of the 50 most prominent dentists in the world under operation "Cotton Candy". But they are so stupid becausw they will loose this case, and their future cases depend on the precedent they *thought* would be set by this case. Well they listened to the wrong people (Derder, Singer, Crowe, a stripper and some two-bit nurse). REAL credible witnesses *cough cough*. Is THAT the BEST our government can do?!!!!! Pretty wimpy.
Thetruth November 13, 2012 at 04:07 AM
What's funny is that I used to think the FBI and the DOJ were these glorious groups that should be revered (on a pedestal, so to speak). Boy was I wrong!!!! TOTAL DISAPPOINTMENT and I will live the rest of my life TALKING DOWN about these people - total joke, totally fool-able, total incompetence, looking after their careers WAAAAYYYY more than justice (even though that's their mandate). I'm one disappointed US Citizen and I am embarrassed and angry of how our federal government is conducting themselves. I ask you: What would president Obama think if he were made aware of this case and how it's being handled? Think he'd be proud of his Federal Bureau of Investigations and his Department of Justice? I think not. I think he'd be appalled and disgusted.
Akif Shinaishin, MD, DDS, MA December 01, 2012 at 03:13 AM
This Dr. Lawrence Singer character is full of shit. It’s not hard to see that he was getting paid by the prosecution to dispute Dr. Makarita’s prescribing habits. "dental work rarely requires strong pain medications, such as Vicodin or Percocet, with most procedures requiring nothing stronger than Tylenol or ibuprofen.” Nonsense. Fillings, crowns, and scaling/root planing may not require narcotics, but just about everything else does. Both as a dentist and as someone who has endured a root canal, I know that Lawrence’s comments are patently untrue. There’s no way he believes them himself, and I suspect that if one were to examine his charts they’d find prescribing habits very similar to Dr. Makarita’s. The entire case against Dr. Makarita, from Karen Derder all the way down to the prosecution (Mazen Basrawi) and its ‘expert’ witnesses, smells like a cesspool of individuals without moral compasses. Hopefully, someone, somewhere along the way will step back, see this matter for what it is, acquit Dr. Makarita, and offer him a sincere apology on behalf of the U.S. government.
Akif Shinaishin, MD, DDS, MA December 01, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Yes, Lawrence Singer's list of credentials is rather bloated, and not indicative of expertise in anything. I was also amused to find the following statement in his biography: “Earning a doctorate in medical dentistry...” Despite all of those fancy 'clinical associations', the moron doesn’t even know what his own degree stands for. (DMD stands for Doctor of Dental Medicine, not “Medical Dentistry”). Apparently, he hasn’t even read his own diploma.


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