Dr. Ben Burris, formerly of Fayetteville, received the OK to transfer his interest in his orthodontic practice to another orthodontist before being sentenced on a federal criminal charge.
As you know, last month Burris pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Arkansas to bribing former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.
Burris is licensed to practice dentistry in Florida and is the owner and operator of Smiley Face PLLC, which has about 3,200 patients.
Burris said that as a result of pleading guilty the Florida Board of Dentistry is likely to suspend or revoke his license. If that happens, Smiley Face wouldn’t be able to continue to provide care to its patients, Burris’ filing last month said.
Burris had made arrangements to transfer his practice to another orthodontist, who would then return the practice to Burris after his license was restored and he was allowed to own Smiley Face again.
Burris had to ask for the court’s permission because under the terms of his release pending trial he wasn’t supposed to liquidate any assets.
Burris also faces a fine of up to $250,000 in addition to any prison time. The filing said that Burris would be able to pay the maximum fine, if it was imposed.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Brooks approved the transfer to the other orthodontist. “The Court is therefore satisfied that he has the resources to pay up to the maximum statutory fine if it is imposed,” Brooks’ order said. “To be clear, the Court has not determined whether any fine should be imposed in this case, let alone the statutory maximum fine.”
If you recall, in a deal with federal prosecutors in the Western District of Arkansas, Burris agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the 14 additional counts of honest services fraud that were alleged in the grand jury’s indictment.
While the maximum sentence for the crime of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud is 20 years, Burris probably won’t be sentenced to that amount of time. His plea agreement acknowledges multiple bribes of an elected official, suggesting a guideline sentence of 33 to 41 months. A sentencing date hasn’t been set.
In 2019, Hutchinson pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Burris and other federal crimes. He has not yet been sentenced.