Florida Woman Arrested for Felony Embezzlement

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Donna Marie Rothermel

Collier County deputies arrested a woman following a years-long investigation after she allegedly stole more than $50,000 from a Naples dentistry.

Donna Marie Rothermel, 47, was arrested at her home on a warrant. She is facing charges of scheming to defraud over $50,000 and grand theft between $20,000 to $100,000.

Investigators believe that Rothermel stole from the North Naples dental practice that she managed.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office was contacted when suspicious financial transactions at Suncoast Dental Center were linked to Rothermel.

As Office Manager, Rothermel managed finances, payroll, tracking employee time, and record-keeping since 2004. Investigators discovered that she was running a long-term con to steal money from the dental practice.

Deputies discovered that Rothermel was converting company funds to use for her own personal expenses. Officials said the purchases ranged from pet products to vacuums to vitamins.

Authorities said she overpaid herself and another employee.

The investigation also revealed she overpaid herself and another employee via payroll and used the practice’s operating funds to pay back two 401(k) loans. Deputies located Rothermel at her residence after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

She was taken into custody and booked into the Collier County jail.

Content retrieved from: https://floridawoman.com/2021/08/14/florida-woman-arrested-following-investigation-she-allegedly-stole-more-than-50k-from-her-employer/

Prosperident Pulse #110 – September 2021

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Phone: 888-398-2327 Web: www.prosperident.com September 2021

Webinar – The Finale
After 20 webinars, and over 8,000 attendees, our webinar series is coming to a close this month.
September 23 at 8:00 pm Eastern please join us for our finale, Everything you Want to Know About Embezzlement in One Hour

Free registration is available HERE, and PACE CE is offered.
Want to check out past webinars? Click HERE.
Want to Liven Up Your Speaking Event?
Want to start your post-Covid meetings with a bang?
We have great titles like “How to Outsmart the Thief in Your Practice.”
If you would like to book a speaker for your event, please give us a call or use THIS LINK.
Here are some of the places you can see us soon:
Sep 9 Smile Source Exchange Las Vegas NV
Sep 16 Seattle Study Club Austin TX
Sep 25 Canadian Association of Dental Consultants Toronto ON
Oct 15 Get Stress Free Dentistry Summit Hollywood FL
Sep 30 American Dental Education Association Virtual
Oct 7 MMCA Vancouver BC
Oct 8 MMCA Calgary AB
Oct 9 MMCA Edmonton AB
Oct 19 Comprehensive Care Club Port Huron MI
Nov 11 Oral and Facial Surgery of Naperville Naperville IL
Nov 17 Rhode Island Dental Association North Kingstown RI
2022

Feb 25 Chicago Midwinter Meeting Chicago IL
Mar 7 Benton/Franklin County Dental Society Kennewick WA
Mar 8 Dr. Graham Jones Study Club Monroe WA
Mar 10-11 Pacific Dental Conference Vancouver BC
Mar 27 Massachusetts Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Boston MA
May 6 Ontario Dental Association Toronto ON
Did you miss a previous newsletter? We archive them HERE.
My Office Manager Quit Suddenly. Now What?
Sooner or later, every practice owner receives this unwelcome news. Your office manager, who is key to the smooth functioning of your office, is leaving. A thousand thoughts race through your head. Where will I ever find a replacement? How can I replicate the amount of knowledge that will vanish with the incumbent?
Many practice owners fall into the trap that, when they find the perfect office manager, they assume that person will be in situ forever. Cross-training other staff members never seems like a priority, nor does having any documentation of what the office manager does and knows.
The View from the CEO’s Chair
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Once a month, the entire team at Prosperident gets together for a virtual “Town Hall.” These meetings serve several purposes. First, they give our team, who are widely scattered geographically, a sense of belonging and connectivity. Our work, which is almost always done remotely, can be insular. Particularly in the past eighteen months, our group has appreciated the chance to see and hear each other.
The topics we discuss are varied. Some of our sessions are technical, where one of our more senior examiners will present a specific skill or situation.
At other times we will discuss managing investigations. Since I personally review and approve all final reports where we find embezzlement, report writing is a frequent topic.
These meetings are also our chance to discuss embezzlement patterns and trends that we are seeing.
In the past few meetings, some fairly clear trends are emerging in what embezzlement looks like since Covid struck last year. First, we are simply seeing more embezzlement. Our “strike rate,” which measures how frequently we see embezzlement in cases where symptoms are evident, has increased from its traditional level of 70% to 78% in the first six months of 2021. This means that a greater percentage of the people who hire us are being victimized.
We also are seeing some different patterns. Expense-side theft, like payroll tampering and purchasing personal items through office accounts are on the rise.
People steal as a result of “pressure” which is sometimes financial and sometimes emotional. it doesn’t take much imagination to understand how the long-running pandemic has stressed people on both dimensions, and the need for practice owners to be vigilant is as strong as ever.
If you have concerns about embezzlement in your practice or want to lessen your vulnerability, I’d love to speak with you. You can book a time using THIS LINK.

Yours truly,

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David Harris
We are Prosperident, Dentistry’s Embezzlement Experts
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My Office Manager Quit Suddenly. Now What?

Sooner or later, every practice owner receives this unwelcome news.  Your office manager, who is key to the smooth functioning of your office, is leaving.  A thousand thoughts race through your head.  Where will I ever find a replacement?  How can I replicate the amount of knowledge that will vanish with the incumbent?

Many practice owners fall into the trap that, when they find the perfect office manager, they assume that person will be in situ forever.  Cross-training other staff members never seems like a priority, nor does having any documentation of what the office manager does and knows.  Renowned consultant Chuck Blakeman talks about how the “tyranny of the urgent” often displaces the need for practices to undertake longer-term planning.

In the sudden urgency to replace a key person, one thing that often gets overlooked is considering the departure circumstances.  At Prosperident, we consider ourselves “professional cynics” and are inclined to look a bit more deeply at someone’s departure and ask what information might be missing.

Sometimes people quit for identifiably good reasons – their spouse took a new job in another city, or your office manager was offered a job with much more responsibility and pay.

At other times, the move seems to be “lateral,” or the reasons provided seem a bit spurious.  Taking a new job because it is a couple of miles closer to the manager’s home is an example of where the person leaving is probably not giving the whole story.

Then there is the question of whether their timing makes sense when someone leaves you on short notice.  For example, when big companies transfer an employee, there is normally a fair amount of notice to allow them to sell their house, move their possessions etc. This means that if someone is leaving you due to a spousal transfer, their family has probably received a fair amount of notice.

If you sense that the person leaving is not being candid with you, there can be several reasons.  They may be unhappy in their job, which could be the result of a toxic co-worker, or you may be a difficult boss.  Understandably, many people leaving for these reasons prefer not to be specific.

Another possibility is that they are running away from the trouble they feel is about to catch up with them.  Embezzlers who think they are about to get caught will often “do a runner,” where they get away from their practice as quickly as possible.  So this is a great time to ask yourself if there has been any event that might give someone who is stealing reason to fear getting caught. 

Examples of things that can frighten a thief are a looming audit by an insurance company or that your spouse is becoming more involved in your practice.  The change that can strike fear into any embezzler is that you have hired a consultant who is about to start working with your practice.  Embezzlers are scared of consultants for a very simple reason – a thief knows your habits and what you scrutinize in a practice and has undoubtedly planned their embezzlement methodology to navigate your scrutiny.  However, the embezzler has no idea what the consultant might examine.  This uncertainty, plus the fact that many consultants are hired to focus more on the practice as a business entity than the practice owner can, creates an extremely dangerous environment for an embezzler.

Almost every consultant has a story about how they stumbled across embezzlement in a practice. They often take the form of an employee who quit more or less concurrently with the consultant coming in to the practice. 

Whenever an office manager or other key employee quits proximate to changes in the office, practice owners need to ask themselves whether there is more to the story.

Do you have questions about your practice?  We are happy to chat.  You can book a meeting using the link below.

Prosperident Webinar August 2021 – Cybersecurity

Join your Prosperident hosts David Harris, Wendy Askins and Amber Weber as they welcome special guest Gary Salman, CEO of Black Talon Security. Gary gives an eye-opening presentation on two topics that present significant danger to dental practices, cybersecurity and ransomware.

If you want to check out other webinars that we have done, they are all available here – https://www.prosperident.com/prosperident-webinar-series/. Or if you prefer to receive content in podcast format, Prosperident’s The Dental Practice Owner’s Podcast is now available on Spotify, TuneIn and iHeart Radio. You can subscribe using one of the buttons below.

Prosperident Pulse #109 – August 2021

Want to receive our newsletter automatically each month?


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Phone: 888-398-2327 Web: www.prosperident.com August 2021

Webinars
Did you know that Prosperident puts on a free webinar every month?
Our next webinar takes place on Aug 19 at 8:00 pm Eastern / 5:00 Pacific, titled Cybersecurity for Dentists. We are pleased to welcome Gary Salman as our special guest.
Free registration is available HERE, and PACE CE is offered.
Want to check out past webinars? Click HERE.
Want to Liven Up Your Speaking Event?
Want to start your post-Covid meetings with a bang?
We have great titles like “How to Outsmart the Thief in Your Practice.”
If you would like to book a speaker for your event, please give us a call or use THIS LINK.
Here are some of the places you can see us soon:
Aug 21 Kentucky Society of OMS Louisville KY
Sep 9 Smile Source Exchange Las Vegas NV
Sep 16 Seattle Study Club Austin TX
Sep 25 Canadian Association of Dental Consultants Toronto ON
Oct 15 Get Stress Free Dentistry Summit Hollywood FL
Oct 19 Compre-hensive Care Club Port Huron MI
Nov 11 Oral and Facial Surgery of Naperville Naperville IL
Nov 17 Rhode Island Dental Association North Kingstown RI
Nov 18 Patterson Dental Portland ME
2022

Feb 25 Chicago Midwinter Meeting Chicago IL
Mar 7 Benton/Franklin County Dental Society Kennewick WA
Mar 8 Dr. Graham Jones Study Club Monroe WA
Mar 10-11 Pacific Dental Conference Vancouver BC
May 6 Ontario Dental Association Toronto ON
Did you miss a previous newsletter? We archive them HERE.
All of us at Prosperident wish everyone a happy 4th of July holiday.

The “Policy Vacuum”
Our CEO once said that embezzlers will happily fill gaps in a practice’s policies to their advantage. So what are these policies, and how do embezzlers exploit them?
We hear concerns expressed by many dentists who are aware that their policies are underdeveloped and don’t know how to fix the problem.
Let’s collectively take a closer look at policies needed in a dental practice and how they can protect you.
Organizations have policies for a simple reason; they want people to be treated consistently and predictably. Airlines want their flights to stay on schedule, and Walmart wants two people in the checkout line with the same item to pay the same amount.

The View from the CEO’s Chair
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It’s a good time to be a dentist; practices are busy, and in-person conferences are resuming. My speaking calendar is filling up, happily, because I love interacting with you in person.
The webinar series we started over a year ago is winding down. Over 8,000 of you have spent time with us, but with live speaking taking place again, it’s time to hit the road and see some of you face to face.
One issue that I want to address is the “moment,” when someone calls us with concerns about their practice. A lot is running through a dentist’s mind when they call. Sometimes it took weeks or months for them finally to dial our number.
Many dentists who call carry some amount of self-blame; they believe that their laxity in overseeing their practice’s finances has somehow contributed to their being embezzled. Others are concerned about retaliation that might take place if they take action against a thief.
When concerned dentists call us, we have some guiding principles. First, we are empathetic to the emotional anguish that many dentists suffer when they choose to trust someone and the consequence is that they become a victim.
Second, we do not judge, period. No amount of indifference to your practice’s finances makes stealing from you acceptable. We treat every dentist who calls us as a valuable human being with a challenging issue, and errors in judgment on their part will never cause us to give them anything less than our best effort.
Put simply; we are on your team. We exist to investigate your suspicions, create a path forward, provide clarity, and ultimately better financial health. Helping you have an operationally sound practice and live worry-free is our goal.
If you want to lessen your vulnerability to embezzlement, I’d love to speak with you. You can book a time using THIS LINK.

Yours truly,

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David Harris
We are Prosperident, Dentistry’s Embezzlement Experts
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Another Ontario Serial Embezzler

Oshawa’s Jean Hakim is at it again. She was previously nailed in 2016 for embezzling from several practices (see our story HERE.)

And now there are fresh accusations from a different practice for theft that allegedly took place from 2019-2020 in a different practice. The following is from the Toronto Sun newspaper:

A 43-year-old Oshawa woman is accused of defrauding a dental clinic where she worked out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Durham Regional Police say officers with the financial crimes unit investigated the suspected misappropriation of funds at the clinic, which allegedly spanned from January 2019 until March 2020.

“Following an audit at My Dentist My Doctor clinic, investigators received reports of an office manager who was (allegedly) taking funds that had been received from customers for her own personal benefit,” Const. Crystal Fitzgerald said Wednesday in a statement outlining the accusations.

The clinic’s losses are believed to be about $40,000.

Jean Hakim, aka Jean Persaud, is charged with fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000, and failure to comply with a probation order.

Content retrieved from https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/oshawa-dental-clinic-office-manager-accused-of-40000-fraud


This story is a good reminder of the need to do proper background investigation (including a criminal records check) before hiring. Check out our webinar on forensic hiring for some good tips.

Forensic Hiring Webinar

The “Policy Vacuum”

Our CEO once said that embezzlers will happily fill gaps in a practice’s policies to their advantage.  So what are these policies, and how do embezzlers exploit them?

We hear concerns expressed by many dentists who are aware that their policies are underdeveloped and don’t know how to fix the problem.

Let’s collectively take a closer look at policies needed in a dental practice and how they can protect you.

Organizations have policies for a simple reason; they want people to be treated consistently and predictably.  Airlines want their flights to stay on schedule, and Walmart wants two people in the checkout line with the same item to pay the same amount. 

Often policies target how customers are treated, but sometimes the focus is ensuring that employees are handled fairly and consistently. Many organizational policies exist to protect an organization’s financial well-being and ensure that its records have integrity.

So, how do these apply to your dental practice?  Your basic objective is no different than any other organization; you want to treat your “customers” fairly, have happy employees, and earn a profit while doing so.  And having a clearly articulated set of policies will bring you far closer to this goal than the alternative, which approaches anarchy.

Continuing with this framework, your policies need to cover several aspects of your practice:

Operations – this area covers everything needed to deliver high-quality dentistry once a patient is in the dental chair.  This realm is everything from sterilization procedures to your preferred tray setup for endo procedures to how someone calling the practice with a dental emergency is accommodated.

Customer service – this policy set covers all interactions with your patients.  How is the phone answered?  What is the time sequence for confirming a patient’s attendance at an upcoming appointment?  What steps are taken to get a patient’s pending treatment appointed? These policies are often the ones that receive the least attention from the doctor and yet are the most discernable to a patient.

HR – of the four areas listed, this is the one where practices tend to have the most developed policies.  Probably this is because having an employee manual is an externally mandated requirement.  However, while many practices have a handbook designed to defend the dentist against certain legal issues, we often find there to be significant deficiencies.  For example, we see many practices where the amount that each employee is supposed to be paid is not documented anywhere.  This can present a significant challenge when employees cause themselves to be overpaid because proving payroll embezzlement normally requires first being able to determine the suspected employee’s correct compensation.  If your entire documentation of an employee’s entitlement is a contract that was signed five years ago, with the employee having received three raises since then, proving correct compensation is probably an uphill battle.

Detailed job descriptions and regular and documented performance reviews are also important if termination or other job action is to be taken against an underperforming or dishonest employee.  Many practices rely on the “employment at will” laws in their jurisdiction to bail them out of situations caused by haphazard HR policies.  Regretfully, some practices have learned the hard way about the danger posed by this approach.

Financial integrity – if we were assigning letter grades to the four areas, this is the one where most practices would receive their lowest grade.  Most dentists feel that their education and experience have not given them sufficient background to understand what needs to be done here. Many abdicate the development and implementation of policy to their office manager.  While it is fine for an office manager to propose policies and to ensure that staff members follow them, the practice owner’s role in this process should never be surrendered.

Here are some of the areas you need to think about:

  • Separation of functions.  No employee should receive, record, deposit, and reconcile money coming into the practice.  In a bigger practice, this can be accomplished by assigning different employees to each of these functions.  In a small practice, accomplishing division may require the practice owner or spouse to perform one or more of these steps personally.
  • Oversight.  Every employee with financial responsibilities, including the office manager, requires oversight.  Some of the supervision of the office manager can be outsourced; for example, an external bookkeeper can perform an independent monthly calculation to ensure that collections according to practice management software agree with bank deposits and that the total of daily reports from practice management software articulates with monthly reporting (which confirms that there was no after-hours activity that was not captured on the reports provided to the practice owner. 
  • Software Controls.  Practice management software contains plenty of safeguards, many of which are promptly undermined by dental practices.  For example, we see many practices where there is a single login id that is used by everyone.  This compromises accountability and means that everyone in the practice has administrator privileges, which is never a good idea. 

Administrator powers in software should normally be limited to the practice owner in solo practices and possibly granted to an office manager in multi-doctor practices. 

The treatment of “adjustments” in software is often poorly controlled, both in terms of who is empowered to make adjustments and how adjustments are categorized in software.  We frequently see a catch-all like “miscellaneous adjustment” used to capture the majority of adjustments made in a practice, where it is vastly preferable to have specific adjustment categories for each category of adjustment (e.g., each PPO and each category of “courtesy” adjustments) and to make use of a miscellaneous category a rarity and required to be supported by explanatory notes.

  • Internal audit.  One thing that cannot be delegated is the daily review of transactions.  Each provider (dentist and hygienist) should review the report showing their work and sign the report as an attestation of its accuracy.  In addition to reviewing their personal production, a practice owner should generate a practice-wide report showing at least payments, adjustments, deletions, and modifications and personally review that report.

Policy deficits can take two forms.  Some practices function without rules (the “anarchy” that we referred to earlier.  Others have policies, except that they are not properly documented. 

Not committing your policies to writing exposes you to a couple of dangers.  First, undocumented policies tend to drift over time, with the shift invariably being towards what is easier for staff, as opposed to what is desired by the practice owner and what will produce the best outcomes.  Furthermore, such slippage normally takes place without the practice owner being aware that it is happening.

 The other danger from undocumented policies is that they are vulnerable to staffing changes.  We have seen many practices where the owner suddenly realized the perishable nature of their operations when the office manager was caught stealing, and much of the practice’s institutional knowledge suddenly vanished.

If you are reading this and are suddenly aware of the magnitude of your deficit in this area, don’t despair.  We are able to help you close much of the vacuum you are perceiving.  Our Office Protection System involves an experienced specialist from Prosperident working with you to identify and address your policy weaknesses and to lessen your vulnerabilities. We would love to help!

Contact Us

Prosperident Webinar July 2021 – External Threats to Your Practice

Join your Prosperident hosts Amber Weber, Wendy Askins, and David Harris as they discuss non-embezzlement threats to a practice. Topics covered include burglary, medication scams and information theft.

If you want to check out other webinars that we have done, they are all available here – https://www.prosperident.com/prosperident-webinar-series/. Or if you prefer to receive content in podcast format, Prosperident’s The Dental Practice Owner’s Podcast is now available on Spotify, TuneIn and iHeart Radio. You can subscribe using one of the buttons below.

CA Woman Arrested for Embezzling from Dentist has Connection to Hell’s Angels

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Katrina Maras

SONOMA — A relatively minor federal fraud case came about after federal agents raided a Santa Rosa home as part of their massive probe into the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, including an alleged murder and two unsolved disappearances, court records recently revealed.

Katrina Maras is charged in federal court with fraudulent use of an unauthorized access device; in layman’s terms, she allegedly used the company credit card for a dentist’s office where she worked to purchase roughly $12,800 in personal expenses. Maras has pleaded not guilty, was freed within days of her July 2020 arrest, and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, court records show.

However, recently filed court records revealed that a 2017 FBI raid that led to the seizure of evidence in Maras’ case wasn’t connected to her, but to her romantic partner at the time and his alleged ties to the Hells Angels. Neither Maras nor her partner were charged, but authorities confirmed in court records the raid was related to the 2017 indictment of a dozen Hells Angels, on charges of murder and mayhem.

During the raid, agents seized ammunition, suspected steroids, a ball peen hammer, and several electronic devices and SIM cards, according to an FBI receipt for property that was attached to a defense motion.

Maras’ partner’s link to the case was revealed in a failed defense motion seeking to get Maras’ statements to the FBI thrown out of court. The motion says Maras was pregnant with her second child on July 29, 2020, when a CHP officer and federal agents — some of them armed with AR-15 rifles — took her into custody and transported her young son to her partner.

Maras was then interviewed for two hours about the Hells Angels. The lead prosecutor in the Hells Angels case asked her questions about items seized in the 2017 raid, according to the defense memo, which argued any statements she made were involuntary.

“Although Ms. Maras did not expressly ask for a lawyer, she expressed concern that she should probably talk to an attorney because she was confused by the situation and she did not want to give the wrong answers,” her attorney, Dena Marie Young, wrote in court records. “The implication throughout the interviews was that if she answered their questions, she would be able to go home, but if she did not, she would be placed in custody and thus deprived of her job and her son.”

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria barely entertained the motion, denying it in a four-sentence June 21 order that said the defense “has done nothing in her motion to create even an inference that that any of her statements during the interrogation at the courthouse were coerced or not properly mirandized,” of that law enforcement had been improper.

The Hells Angels indictment, filed in 2017, charges the defendants with murdering a sergeant-at-arms of the notorious biker gang at the Fresno clubhouse, over an internal conflict. Along the way, the FBI investigated two unsolved disappearances of other Hells Angels who were also last seen in the Fresno area. Prosecutors allege the victim, a Sonoma Hells Angel, was cremated after being shot in the head. Other charges include a brutal assault by a former Sonoma chapter member that authorities call a form of witness intimidation.

Content retrieved from https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2021/07/21/a-bay-area-dentist-office-embezzlement-case-is-somehow-tied-to-massive-probe-of-hells-angels-murder-investigation/?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=socialflow&utm_content=tw-EastBayTimes&utm_medium=social

You Don’t See This Every Day – NV Assistant Allegedly Broke into Office Where She Worked and Stole $23K

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Laurel Eich
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – A Reno woman is facing several felony charges, accused of breaking into a Sun Valley dental office, stealing more than $22,000 in cash and checks, and performing tooth extractions without a license.

The burglary happened May 3, 2021 on Sun Valley Boulevard. Deputies responded to an after-hours alarm call and found an open door and a broken window. They also found a total of $22,861 in cash and checks stolen from a cash drawer.

Washoe County Sheriff’s Office detectives identified an employee of the dental office, 42-year-old Laurel Eich, as a person of interest in the burglary.

During the investigation, detectives learned that Eich had previously performed 13 tooth extractions on one person. Eich admitted to detectives that she performed the medical procedure and used anesthetic disposed of by the dental office.

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Content retrieved from: https://www.kolotv.com/2021/07/15/unlicensed-dental-office-employee-admits-performing-extractions/