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    An interview with a dental practice embezzler

    What made this dental practice employee steal from her employers — and how you can avoid becoming a victim in your own practice.

    In my role as CEO of Prosperident, I encounter dentists daily who have been embezzled. It is far less common for me to meet an embezzler, and usually it is in a controlled situation like a courtroom.

    So imagine my surprise when in January 2016 I received a telephone call from an embezzler who had worked in a couple of offices we had previously investigated. This lady, who I will call “Antonella”1, wanted to tell her story. I was immediately intrigued, and readily agreed to listen. What ensued were several lengthy telephone conversations followed by a face-to-face meeting. With her permission, I recorded some of our conversations to ensure that I got the details right.

    I will cover these interviews in three parts; first I will re-tell her story (as close to verbatim as possible, without editorializing). Next, I will provide my analysis, and finally I will present implications for dentists.

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    Part 1 -- Antonella’s Story

    Antonella was born in Europe, and immigrated here when she was ten. Her voice still carries a charming trace of her homeland. Her parents weren’t wealthy, but provided a stable home and tried to instill values.

    Antonella trained as a dental assistant. When she got married, she left dentistry, and she and her husband started a successful franchise business. They had two children, now in their late 20s. Eventually, Antonella divorced, and the cost, combined with dividing the business, hurt Antonella financially.

    Antonella’s next relationship was with a man who had gambling problems, and her finances worsened as a result. She ended up losing both home and business. She tells of living in a small apartment, with her kids unhappily domiciled with her ex-husband (who lived about an hour away) because Antonella could not afford to support them. Her children were forced to discontinue their studies, and she found this very upsetting.

    To pay her rent, Antonella took a job as a dental receptionist.

    She claims that her employer saw her desperation. He offered her benefits in exchange for sex, which she says she declined. Antonella says that her employer was also committing widespread insurance fraud such as billing patients’ insurance for root canals to cover uninsured procedures like whitening.

    In her capacity as receptionist, Antonella was the person transmitting these false insurance claims. Out of desperation, she began sending false claims also, but for her own financial benefit. “I learned the fraud from him,” she says of her employer. She claims that her objective was to get enough money to regain custody of her children.

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    Continue to page two to see what happened next...


    David Harris, MBA, CMA, CFE
    David Harris is a licensed private investigator and Certified Fraud Examiner, and is the Chief Executive Officer of Prosperident, the ...


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