Charges dropped in Miami-Dade ‘Tooth Fairy Heist’ dental fraud case

Company raises claims that ‘political clout’ may have motivated arrests

Dental chair (Pexels)

MIAMI – Prosecutors dropped charges against five South Florida dental clinic workers who were accused of fraud in April.

Mercedes Linares, 53, of Hollywood; Christi Olson, 47, of Hialeah; Leonardo Ramos, 22, of Hialeah Gardens; Leonel Ravelo, 34, of Hialeah and Ryon Vazquez, 33, of Miami had all faced felony counts in what authorities had described as a $1.3 million insurance fraud scheme — dubbing their investigation the “Tooth Fairy Heist.”

Miami-Dade prosecutors dropped the case the following month, court records show.

Now the company at the center of the case is publicly fighting back, saying it — and the five employees — were victims of a potentially politically-motivated investigation.

A spokesperson for AC Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontic referenced claims raised by the group’s defense attorneys in an article published by news website Florida Bulldog earlier in November.

They told the outlet that Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, whose office investigated the case, may have been influenced by political contributions made by two people with connections to a separate lawsuit over control of the practice.

“ACPDO applauds the independence and objectivity of the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office (SAO), which determined in May of this year that – despite clear external pressures – it would not proceed with any further investigation of, or charges against, ACPDO and its employees. The SAO made this thoughtful decision following its own evaluation of information that, when pressed against the light of day, was riddled with numerous, material inaccuracies. Inaccuracies that appear to have been provided by self-interested parties. ACPDO is beyond thankful that actual, supported evidence – not political clout – contributed to the correct result here. It now looks forward to continuing on with its efforts to deliver the highest quality care to underserved pediatric patients.”

ACPDO statement

Local 10 News reached out to Patronis’ office for comment.

“DFS is aware of at least one ongoing investigation that’s outside of our purview, therefore the Department will save its comments for the future as not to complicate ongoing work into this matter,” Devin Galetta, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Financial Services, said in a statement Monday afternoon.

About the Author:

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.