Breaking News
More () »

Knoxville dentist gets six-month prison term in health care fraud conspiracy

Buzz Nabers entered a plea agreement with the government in July, records show, and was sentenced Friday in federal court.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville dentist Dr. Clarence "Buzz" Nabers will spend six months in a federal penal facility after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Nabers, 56, who entered a plea agreement with the government in July, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Katherine A. Crytzer in Knoxville.

In addition to the six-month term in prison, Nabers faces six months of home detention and a year on supervised release, according to the federal government. He also must make restitution of nearly $250,000 and pay a $22,128 fine.

Nabers had an unidentified co-conspirator referred to as T.N., federal records show. T.N. was the practice manager, documents state.

Defense attorney Stephen Ross Johnson said his Knoxville dental practice will continue. The case dates to "something that ended many years ago," he said in a written release.

Nabers has taken responsibility for his actions, according to Johnson.

"What occurred back then doesn’t speak to how Dr. Nabers cares for his patients or runs his practice now. As a person of faith, he believes we are all deserving of grace and forgiveness. Dr. Nabers appreciates the support he has received from his loving family, colleagues, patients, and friends, who know him to be a caring person and excellent dentist. Dr. Nabers looks forward to continuing to serve his community as a small business owner, employer, and dentist," Johnson's statement on Nabers' behalf reads.

Federal prosecutors alleged Nabers and the co-conspirator got money for performing dental services that weren't "properly rendered" -- starting at an unclear date and continuing until at least November 2018.

He submitted more than 6,700 fraudulent claims for work he said he did that actually was done by dental hygienists or dental assistants. Some treatments or care involved patients under age 3, according to authorities.

Nabers, along with staff, operated practices at two locations at the time -- one in downtown Knoxville on Gay Street and the other on Thunderhead Road.

"The offense in this case is particularly serious because defendant not only defrauded health care benefits companies -- he defrauded his own patients. Instead of personally performing or supervising the dental procedures as he claimed, the procedures were actually performed by dental hygienists or dental assistants without defendant's supervision and without defendant even being present in the building during the procedures," Assistant U.S. Attorney William A. Roach Jr. wrote in a Feb. 24 sentencing memo.

Johnson's release said Nabers "is dedicated to continuing to provide his patients with excellent care."

In 2019, some of his patients sued him, alleging his office had failed to properly sterilize dental instruments and reused single-use dental tools from 2016  to 2019, potentially exposing them to diseases such as Hepatitis B and HIV. The allegations stemmed at least in part from a state investigation.

The state fined Nabers $11,000 and placed him on a two-year probation at the time for improperly sterilizing tools and forging certificates.

Before You Leave, Check This Out