It’s something that we read over and over. A dentist in a Facebook forum states that embezzlement cannot be happening in his or her practice because they “check their daysheet every single day.”
Broadly, there are two types of embezzlement. The first takes place when the balancing process (in other words the daily and monthly comparison between software and financial accounts) is unsupervised or incomplete. In this situation, stealing is easy because a thief can enter all payments into the practice management software and then simply “short” the deposit. This leaves patient accounts balances accurate. This is important to prevent patients from complaining about their balances, repeated occurrences of which might get an embezzler caught.
But what if the balancing process is done with integrity, which means that it is complete and supervised? Does this mean that it is impossible to steal? Not by a long shot. It takes a bit more planning than pilfering from the deposit, but it is something that most would-be embezzlers can master.
Success at this kind of theft requires an embezzler to perform what shouldn’t be possible; he or she needs to teach practice management software to lie. This lying normally involves lowering a patient’s receivable balance in a way that does not simultaneously increase the amount that the software believes should be deposited.
There are many options for doing this. They range from the abuse of functions deliberately built into the software for other (legitimate) purposes to more creative avenues such as exploiting security weaknesses in the software.
It’s tempting to assume that practice management software, which is normally built at considerable expense by some pretty smart people, should be hard to outsmart, but we see it happen over and over.
For security reasons, we are not going to outline specific techniques used. If you are a dentist and interested in learning more, feel free to attend one of our doctors-only live presentations or to contact us directly at email@example.com
How to Protect Yourself
Here are some steps that practice owners can take to help ensure the integrity of the information in their practice management software:
Print the reports you rely on yourself. Allowing a staff member to generate reports for you creates the potential for selective reporting, where you are seeing less than the full picture
Protect your password. One of the best ways to defeat the security measures built into practice management software is to obtain the practice’s owner’s login information. Your password should never be shared with any staff member, and you need to be obsessive about changing your password regularly (changing it quarterly is the maximum interval that should be permitted). Frequent changes will minimize the damage done from compromise.
While it is important to look at day-end reports, looking at monthly ones is vital. If your review is limited to the days when the office is open and no monthly verification is done, you open the door to extra activity performed on days when the practice is closed.
On a monthly basis, the following need to be reconciled by you or an outside party such as an external bookkeeper to your practice management software:
The bank account
The merchant account (this is the facility used when patients pay by credit card)
Any third-party financing or payment management company you use (e.g., Care Credit, Lending Club, or Orthobanc).
You need to be aware of “timing differences” where the date when something is recorded by your practice management software is earlier or later than when the money reaches your bank account. Credit card payments are an example of timing differences because of the 1-3 day “processing lag” before money reaches your bank account. You need to keep track of these amounts and ensure that they reconcile properly.
The bottom line –nothing will prevent embezzlement. But you can detect it quickly if you approach it the right way.
A former South Ogden dental office manager is facing 28 felony charges after she allegedly used $96,000 of company money to pay for her personal expenses, including food, rent, cellphone bills and Netflix.
Nikki Lee Martinez, 40, was booked into the Weber County Jail Thursday on 25 counts of forgery, third-degree felonies; obstructing justice, a third-degree felony; unlawful use of financial transaction, third-degree felony; and theft by deception, second-degree felony, her indictment stated.
People became suspicious of Martinez after blank checks from South Ogden Dental were found inside her vehicle by police after a vehicle accident in August.
The dental office filed an official complaint against Martinez on Oct. 14 after she had been fired.
Her replacement contacted police after she found several discrepancies with checks. Martinez had applied to fraudulent loans and issued several checks to people who have never been employed or treated at the office, according to an arrest warrant. She also discovered a notebook where Martinez allegedly practiced patient’s signatures.
After reviewing the numbers, police discovered Martinez had stolen approximately $96,000 from her employer over the course of two years.
Twenty-nine checks totaling $13,700 had been issued between May 2018 and Aug. 2019 to an “Anette Christiansen” from the South Ogden Dental bank account. Police say there is no record of “Christiansen” being a patient or an employee at the business.
Upon further investigation, the American First Credit Union bank account, where the checks were being deposited, was found to belong to Annette Christensen, Martinez’s landlord.
Christensen told police she and Martinez had come to an agreement that the 40 year old would rent from her, even after a $1,000 check bounced. Martinez claimed her employer agreed to pay her rent out of her salary.
Court documents state Martinez would pay her landlord twice a month for rent, but the payment was never the same each time.
A series of 39 checks written personally to Martinez between August to October totaled $63,045.
Each of the checks, which all had forged signatures, were meant for Martinez’s pay check, the dentist told police. But, she had overpaid herself each time she handled the money.
South Ogden Dental also found approximately 429 duplicate checks written to Martinez and to other vendors and individuals.
An arrest warrant claims Martinez also used the company’s American Express credit card to pay for her personal cellphone bill, car payment, Netflix account, groceries, Uber rides and food purchases at Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Hut and Burger King. The total amount used came to $4,950.
A series of Walmart Auto Checks, that pass through a system after payment and are given back to the customer, were used by Martinez at Walmart and Sam’s Club. The former office manager allegedly used $4,590 from the company’s checking account to pay for the groceries.
Martinez’s electrical bill was paid for by the company for almost two years, totaling $5,031.56.
On Dec. 13, a patient at South Ogden Dental told police Martinez had been demanding payment for services and requested she deposit the money into a bank account. The former office manager said she would make sure the money would be given to South Ogden Dental.
An indictment was filed against Martinez four days later in the Second District Court in Weber County.
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Dr, Lookhart was sentenced to 12 years in prison for is convictions on charges including Medicaid fraud, embezzlement, reckless endangerment and unlawful dental acts. The State of Alaska is also seeking restitution of $2.2 million.
Many of us have heard about Dr. Seth Lookhart, the Alaska dentist who was on video showing him riding a hoverboard while extracting a tooth on a sedated patient.
As outlandish as this activity is, there seems to be more to the story. Dr. Lookhart is also accused of diverting over $250,000 from Alaska Dental Arts, the practice where he was working as an associate.
Information gathered by investigators from the State of Alaska’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in connection with some alleged Medicaid billing improprieties for IV sedation also suggested a plot between Dr. Lookhart and his office manager, Shauna Leigh Cranford, to bill some of their IV sedation work through a separate billing number and thus deprive the owners of the practice from their share of this revenue.
Shauna Cranford, who has also used the surnames Billings and Smith, was charged in 2017 for assault on a police officer.
The State’s investigators obtained a search warrant to seize and copy the phones of Dr. Lookhart and Ms. Cranford, and found the following exchange of text messages where the intent to divert some of the revenue from the practice is quite clear.
Ms Cranford entered a guilty plea in October 2019 for pushing excessive and often needless intravenous sedation for Medicaid patients. Her sentencing is scheduled for February 3, 2020.
12/29/2015 8:55:18 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Weird side question but could we start running some sedation through my personal medi number Status: Read 12/29/2015 8:55:23 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I agree. We are not here to kick start ADA as an IV practice and provide all of the leg work Status: Sent 12/29/2015 8:55:42 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Yes we could Status: Sent 12/29/2015 8:56:32 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I can send claims through their website for Lookhart Dental LLC Status: Sent 12/29/2015 8:57:42 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) I know it might prevent me from coming at them for back taxes with a law suit but it might be worth it Status: Read 12/29/2015 8:58:12 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Our office production would drop and it would draw far less attention to the office Status: Read 12/29/2015 8:58:25 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Will they be able to track it Status: Read 12/29/2015 8:58:33 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) I want it untraceable Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:03:36 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) They can’t look at your claims at all and the check would go to your house. If you are billing procedures as well as the sedation, only bill under your LLC for ones that don’t require auth Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:05:17 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Like sedation Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:06:11 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) It would be only sedation and probably not all of them Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:06:21 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) How would it look through dentrix Status: Read (Note: Dentrix was the internal tracking program used by the clinic) 12/29/2015 9:11:10 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) We just wouldn’t flag them as sedation Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:11:37 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) And not put in the sedation charges Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:11:57 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) So it would look like you’re doing less sedation Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:18:01 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I’m surprised the power hasn’t gone out Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:31:08 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) I think that’s what I’d like to do Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:31:50 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Even if we only do 50% of the sedations it will drop their production to a more “normal/reasonable” level Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:32:34 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I would keep a separate copy of the sedation records that you bill under yourself Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:32:46 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Sure Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:32:57 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I can photocopy them and give them to you to store off site Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:33:33 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) I guess they could catch on if they manually went through charts and saw scanned record and compared to the ledger and they weren’t showing there Status: Read Read: 12/29/2015 9:33:35 AM(UTC-9) 12/29/2015 9:34:11 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I don’t know that they are that smart Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:34:49 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) I’m sure they aren’t Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:35:42 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) And as far as sedation goes it’s a pretty sure fire payment correct Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:35:56 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) As long as they are eligible Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:36:22 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) It pays out right away Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:51:49 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) How hard is it to set up? Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:52:01 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) And what’s the fee for 9243? Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:52:24 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Set up what? You are already set up Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:52:45 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) So it’s just start billing? Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:52:50 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I would just have to login to their website and submit the codes manually through their portal Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:53:03 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Can they track that? Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:53:45 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) $170.76 Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:53:56 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) They meaning BS? Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:54:08 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford)
BS cannot track it Status: Sent
(Note — BS is an acronym for the names of the owners of the practice_ 12/29/2015 9:56:39 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Yeah Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:56:57 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Or anyone else Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:57:13 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Just Medicaid would know Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:57:42 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) The RA would get mailed to your house Status: Sent 12/29/2015 9:57:57 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Sure Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:58:00 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Let’s do it Status: Read 12/29/2015 9:58:41 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Do we incrementally reduce volume or take a decent cut? Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:01:19 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) That’s up to you. Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:02:26 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) A decent cut would draw some attention but you can have some excuse Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:03:03 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) An incremental reduction would likely go unnoticed until a certain level Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:05:40 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Attrition Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:05:47 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Sure Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:06:07 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) I would say our numbers shouldn’t not increase Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:07:41 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Lol it actually reminds me about a rant LJ had about the maid stealing his socks and undershirts. He compared it to attrition. Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:07:59 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) It was funny. The rant went on for like an hour Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:08:52 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Yes I agree or the numbers should be around the average for sedation. Like $40-$50k Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:09:26 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I would throw out our high of near $80k Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:10:47 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) I would say within six months 50% get billed out under the cartel Status: Read (Note: Cranford and Lookhart often refer to their business and practices as “the cartel”) 12/29/2015 10:11:00 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Reasonable? Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:11:26 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Sounds good Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:12:12 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) I’ll check out the portal a little today. I’ve never used it for sending claims but was trained on it by Joan. It was simple enough Status: Sent
12/29/2015 10:13:55 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Lol Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:13:57 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Ok Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:15:37 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) I would say we keep sedations around 25 a month under ak dental arts Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:16:19 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) And still keep a record on the sedation excel but may star those billed under the cartel Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:17:01 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) That’s around 20 sedations to ADA. So like month 1 Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:19:13 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Wait what? Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:20:22 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Over the last 6 months we have averaged around 40 sedations a month of say we keep around 25 going to BS and the remaining 15 to the cartel Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:20:59 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Got it. I thought you were talking $25k Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:21:26 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Or perhaps better to do a percentage so that it will naturally eb and flow Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:22:07 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) And I wouldn’t have a day sheet on the cartel cases correct? Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:22:50 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) Correct. But I would make something so that tracking claims would be easier Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:23:18 AM(UTC-9), – (Shauna Cranford) So you would have a day sheet. Just not a dentrix one Status: Sent 12/29/2015 10:23:51 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Sure Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:41:33 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Do you think 40% of sedations is reasonable and not noticeable Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:41:50 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Start with 15% for jan Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:42:09 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Then 25 for feb Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:42:16 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Then 35 for March Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:42:25 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) And 40 for April and forward? Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:42:30 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Looks great Status: Read 12/29/2015 10:42:32 AM(UTC-9), – (Seth Lookhart) Thanks
The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators determined that a total of $250,686 was billed to Medicaid and sent directly to Dr. Lookhart’s home address. Based on the 70% share that belonged to the practice, this suggests embezzlement of about $175,000.
Dr. Lookhart was convicted on 46 counts, including felony medical assistance fraud and scheming to defraud, as well as misdemeanor counts of illegally practicing dentistry and reckless endangerment.
Florida woman is charged with stealing $45k from a patient of the practice where she worked.
PALM BEACH GARDENS – Lisa Campbell, police say, handed a $45,000 check to a lawyer. She said the money, from a woman in her 90s whom Campbell had befriended, constituted gifts, but she felt bad and wanted to give it back.
It didn’t work. Campbell is charged with three counts each of grand theft of a person over 65, uttering a forgery instrument and criminal use of personal identification.
60, of North Palm Beach was booked Nov. 12 at the Palm Beach County
Jail. She left the next day after posting a $27,000 bond. A call to a
telephone number listed for her in a police report was not returned.
According to the Palm Beach Gardens police report, Campbell told investigators Nov. 12 that the woman wrote her the checks because she “wanted to do something nice for her.”
When pressed by a detective, the report said, Campbell admitted to
the fraud. She said she was having financial problems and needed the
The Palm Beach Post is not naming the older woman, who is
now 94 years old. The report said she told investigators that she’d met
Campbell, who was a dental assistant, during a visit to her dentist in
She said she and Campbell became friends and Campbell began
to help her with errands and appointments. The woman said she never paid
Campbell, saying “it was all done in friendship,” the report said.
woman was hospitalized in June and eventually moved to an assisted
living complex. Longtime friends who knew the woman from the New York
area went to court and obtained guardianship. They began checking the
woman’s bank records and found checks written to Campbell for $2,000,
$25,000 and $20,000.
The report said detectives later showed the
alleged victim the checks, and she said, “Oh. She went for the gold.”
She said she’d have no reason to write the checks to Campbell and the
signatures were not hers.
In August, Michael W. Connors, a Juno
Beach elder law attorney who represented the guardians, sent Campbell a
“demand letter” for anything she had belonging to the woman.
Connors said Monday that Campbell came to his office with a personal check for $45,000.
“She handed it to me and said, ‘I feel bad that I didn’t mention these gifts,’ ” Connors said Monday.
also said guardians cannot find cash and jewelry that had been in the
alleged victim’s home, which had been empty since she went to the
“We’re at a loss as to how to pursue that,” Connors said.
said the woman still is financial able to support herself but, “It’s
still a terrible act. Like stealing candy from a baby. Maybe worse.”
Court records show Campbell was convicted in 2000 of grand
theft and organized scheme to defraud more than $20,000 and was
sentenced to 18 months of probation.
A Palm Beach Gardens report said the dentist for whom she worked at the time alleged she wrote herself $25,000 on company checks, and also made as many as 50 fraudulent purchases on his credit card. The report said Campbell later confessed.
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Editor’s note: A search of Florida criminal records reveals that a woman with the same name and birthdate as Lisa Campbell, living in the Palm Beach area, was charged four times for felony theft and fraud offenses in the years 1999 to 2000. This underscores the need to do a proper criminal records check as part of the hiring process.
First and Last Name Lisa J Campbell Booked Sep. 27, 2000 Source Palm Beach County Sheriff’S Office – Arrest Records (Florida) Charge 83102 – Utter Forged Instrument; 812014 2c – Grand Theft; 817034 3d – Organized Schemed to Defraud
First and Last Name Lisa J Campbell
Offense Oct. 10, 2000
Source Palm Beach Courts (Florida)
Charges/Offenses Grand Theft | Organized Scheme to Defraud>$20, 000
First and Last Name Lisa J Campbell
Offense Jun. 1, 1999
Source Dept Of Corrections (Florida)
Charges/Offenses Org.fraud – $20, 000 – 50, 000 | Grand Theft, 300 L/5, 000
First and Last Name Lisa J Campbell
Offense Aug. 26, 2000
Source Palm Beach Courts (Florida)
Charge/Offense Conversion: (812.014 (1, 2c)/ / /F/000/78 ) (Prob – X) Grand Theft
There are some twists and turns in the world of insurance reimbursement that are not well understood by dentists. We asked our friend Chris Tayler of Cobalt Analytics to shed some light. He gave us some excellent information.
Navigating the world of dental plan contracts and reimbursements can be like reading legal documents written in Sanskrit through a tinted glass window. And yet the results can make a big difference in your write-offs and subsequent take home pay.
This is particularly true with companies that act as administrators/lessors and/or “networks” of dental plans. In essence these administrator networks sell and sometimes administer other dental plans.
The big question is which fee schedule the dentist will be paid from. This question arises because administrator networks and the dental plans which they sell have their own distinct fee schedules and often reimburse at vastly different rates.
Thanksgiving is over, and the frenzied rush towards Christmas is now upon us. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and, just when your credit cards have had enough, Boxing Day, have become the media events of the season.
It’s not hard to get the idea that rampant consumerism has displaced more traditional forms of Christmas celebration. I can only imagine the pressure that sale flyers and ads can exert on embezzlers.
Since this is our last newsletter of 2019, on behalf of everyone at Prosperident, I’d like to that you for allowing us to be a part of your community, and to wish you a wonderful holiday season.
We are Prosperident, Dentistry’s Embezzlement Experts