By J.J. Smith. A Royse City man has been sentenced to ten years in prison by a Rockwall County jury after stealing nearly $100,000 from his former employer, Goliad Dental in Rockwall, owned by Dr. Barney Barnhill.
Former Office Manager Billy Ray Benavidez, 35, (pictured above) was ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 by the jury in the 382nd District Court.
District Judge Brett Hall also ordered Benavidez to pay $99,942 in restitution to Goliad Dental.
His prison term and fine were the maximum allowed by law for theft over $20,000 but under $100,000, according to the chief prosecutor, Rockwall County Assistant District Attorney Damita Sangermano.
Goliad Dental Office Administrator Irma Urieta said that Benavidez actually caused Goliad Dental to lose closer to $250,000, including the nearly $100,000 cash he pocketed plus additional discounts he offered to get patients to pay cash.
She said they doubt that any of the money will ever be returned to the dental office.
We’re just glad it’s over, she said. He was a real con man. We’re glad he got caught. Now we’re just getting back to normal. It hasn’t been fun.
According to Sangermano, the thefts occurred between Sept, 2007, and May, 2008, at a time when Benavidez was responsible for all financial operations at the dental clinic.
He embezzled all cash paid by patients for dental services and encouraged cash payments from patients by offering them a substantial discount on dental services, not authorized by Dr. Barnhill, she explained.
Because Billy Benavidez had access to the patient computer program, he was able to manipulate the records so that the cash payments did not appear, i.e. record them as credit card payments, change the dates, etc. He was the office manager, so no one looked beyond the obvious until a discrepancy came to light and then the entire amount was discovered when an audit was run that showed the changes he was making to conceal his thefts.
Urieta said he was caught when a dental assistant checked on a patient’s record to see how the patient had been billed. When she noticed the next day that Benavidez had changed the record, backdated the payment to 2007 so it wouldn’t show up, and that the patient had paid cash, she became suspicious and showed Dr. Barnhill.
Soon after, an audit was completed revealing the large sum of money missing, plus Benavidez was caught lying about going to Mexico and was found hiding in the office trying to take evidence.
He had all kinds of yellow sticky notes all over the place, she said.
Although he claimed he would repay the money, Benavidez was fired May 28, 2008, and police were contacted. He was arrested Oct. 6, 2008 and remained in jail until his trial began in Dec, 2009.
Sangermano said that Benavidez had committed a similar crime with his wife at a New Mexico dental clinic before coming to Texas. He was serving five years probation when he arrived here but nobody realized it.
He is currently on probation in Roswell, NM for forgery and committed the same offense against Dr. Carlton Walker, a now retired dentist. He embezzled cash payments from patients in exactly the same way he committed the Rockwall County offense but, in addition, he was submitting fraudulent refund claims to the insurance companies and cashing them.
The checks are the basis for the forgery charge. His wife, Rachael Benavidez, was a codefendant in the New Mexico charge and was also placed on probation for her participation in that offense.
There was no evidence that his wife was involved in the Rockwall case so there are no charges pending against her, she added.
Urieta said they were unaware of his record because their original background check only included Texas. After he was arrested, they paid for a nationwide background check and then learned about his previous crimes.
Dr. Barnhill was not aware of his record because Benavidez told Dr. Barnhill that his previous employer could not be contacted because he had retired due to a serious illness, said Sangermano.
The Assistant DA said he is currently waiting to be transferred to a Texas prison and from there is facing extradition and sentencing on a probation revocation in New Mexico.
It is possible that the New Mexico sentence could be stacked on the Texas sentence which would require the defendant to serve the sentences consecutively. I believe the defendant is facing a penalty range of 1-3 years in New Mexico, she added.
Sangermano said that prior to his arrest, he was indicted by a grand jury, after Rockwall police and the Rockwall County District Attorney’s office worked together collecting and reviewing case evidence, witness statements and preparing the indictment.
Benavidez was living and working in Rockwall when he was arrested. Urieta said she doesn’t think he realized that Goliad Dental had contacted police and filed charges, nor that he was under investigation until he was arrested.
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