KY’s Denise Dempsey Pleads Guilty

Denise Dempsey

Referring to Prosperident’s Wendy Askins as a “living legend” is not much of a stretch. She leads all Prosperident investigators in convictions and dollar amount of embezzlement identified in her storied career, and she has mentored many of Prosperident’s capable investigators. And there has just been another notch added to Wendy’s belt.

Denise Dempsey (who sometimes goes by “Verlie Dempsey” of Harold, KY, has pled guilty to embezzling from the dental practice where she worked. She has paid some restitution, but according to court records still owes approximately $244,000.

She was initially indicted on a charge of “theft by failure to make the required disposition of property,” but pled guilty to a reduced felony charge.

As her sentence does not appear to include jail time, there is a possibility that Denise is looking for work in dentistry. We remind readers to perform a proper background check, including a criminal records check and speaking with former employers, before making a hiring decision.

Well done, Wendy!

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Canadians DO Embezzle — BC’s Kim Stephens Gets Convicted

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Kim Stephens, of British Columbia was recently convicted for “fraud over $5,000,” which is the most serious fraud offense in Canada. Kim was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest, a further year of probation, plus was ordered to pay restitution of $95,324 to a victim of her crime. Kim also has a prohibition against handling money or monetary instruments in the course of her work.

Kim has worked in several dental practices in the Vancouver area, and her employment has generally not ended in a positive way. She also worked for a time as a consultant offering services to dentists.

Prosperident’s Senior Fraud Examiner Dr. Pat Little performed the investigation leading to the conviction of Ms. Stephens.

This is a good reminder to observe our usual cautions about checking with former employers before hiring.

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Arizona man sentenced to 16 years for DSO Ponzi scheme that cost victims more than $23M

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Kent Maerki

A Scottsdale man was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in a nationwide investment fraud scheme, authorities said Monday.

Kent Maerki, 78, made misrepresentations about his businesses to solicit investments, according to court documents.

Maerki, who owned Dental Support Plus Franchise, LLC, and Janus Spectrum, LLC, cost victims more than $23 million in losses and kept about $4 million of those funds as part of a conspiracy.

He mostly targeted elderly victims who cashed out on their 401(k) retirement plans and other retirement accounts to invest in companies founded by Maerki.

Their money was then being transferred to other companies controlled by other members of the conspiracy, according to court documents.

“This defendant made millions of dollars by deceiving innocent investors and perpetuating a scheme that defrauded vulnerable victims out of their hard-earned retirement funds,” Raj Parekh, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a press release.

“Today’s sentence sends a strong message that anyone in the financial services industry who lies, manipulates and steals their way to success acts at their own peril and risks substantial jail time if they do not operate their practices truthfully and with integrity.”

Content retrieved from https://ktar.com/story/4171815/scottsdale-man-receives-16-year-sentence-for-investment-fraud-scheme/

24 Months for Serial Embezzler who Stole From Dentist and then Mayor

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Roslyn Wedington, 51, was sentenced to two years in prison for tax fraud in connection with her work at the Maryland Center for Adult Training.

She asked for leniency, saying that she cheated on her taxes because she was overwhelmed by student loans and medical bills and trying to help friends and family. If spared prison time, she said, she could pay back her debt to society.

But federal prosecutors, calling her a “rare fraud recidivist,” noted that she had embezzled $800,000 from a previous job and made little effort to make restitution.

U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow noted Wedington’s ability to help people, but said that she had twice taken advantage of a position of authority.

“You have proven you cannot be trusted,” Chasanow said. “Frankly, I have no trouble imposing 24 months.”

Wedington was director of the Maryland Center for Adult Training, where Pugh served on the board of directors. Disgraced for Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh’s aide Gary Brown helped Wedington earn an off-the-books salary so she could avoid paying taxes and wage garnishment for years. She managed to avoid paying $120,000 to the government during that time.

Brown was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for his role in the MCAT scheme, as well as a fraud scheme related to Pugh’s Healthy Holly children’s books. Pugh, meanwhile, is serving a three-year sentence in an Alabama federal prison.

Wedington was convicted in 2004 for stealing $852,000 from a beloved Park Heights dentist while working as his secretary. She presented checks to Dr. Ernest Colvin to sign, then would add a thousand dollars to the amount. Colvin, who has since died, asked at the time for leniency for Wedington, and she was spared jail and asked to pay back $250,000. She made sporadic payments.

Part of Wedington’s salary from MCAT was garnished in 2013 to repay debts. To avoid such garnishments moving forward, she asked Brown to move her “off payroll” at MCAT and instead funnel money directly to her.

According to Wedington’s plea agreement, Brown directed the center’s payroll provider to pay him the amount of her salary — more than $80,000 a year — as an independent contractor. He then gave the money to Wedington in cash. Brown eventually gained authority to write checks from MCAT bank accounts, and started writing Wedington checks directly.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told Chasanow that “fraud was how [Wedington] operated. That’s simply the state of affairs for her.”

Wedington’s attorney, Brandon Mead, said that his client hadn’t splurged on handbags and fancy cars, but was trying to get by.

“Ms. Wedington is one of those individuals who takes on a lot,” Mead told Chasanow.

Wedington apologized, but also blamed others.

That didn’t sit well with Chasanow.

“The fraud in this case was your instigation,” Chasanow said. “You didn’t want to pay taxes, you wanted to have money yourself. There might’ve been good things you did with it. That’s not the point.”

Content retrieved from: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/crime/bs-md-ci-cr-pugh-wedington-sentencing-20210304-euyub2njczcpfnpshykzvdr7bm-story.html

Hiring Alert California

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Beatriz Ybarra Valdez

We encourage practices to look out for Beatriz Ybarra Valdez of Turlock, CA. We understand that she may have previously lived in Texas.

As of March 2021, Ms. Valdez is awaiting trial for felony embezzlement, grand larceny and prescription fraud in Stanislaus County, California. We have received reports that she continues to seek employment in dental practices in the Turlock area.

When hiring, please perform a proper background check to include speaking with all former employers for at least the past five years.

For more information on proper hiring practices, please click on the button below.

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Embezzler’s Lawyer – Thief Would not Been Charged if She Stole from a Dentist Instead of the County

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Melissa K. Brennen

So this is how the rest of the world perceives the dental profession. We do not often report on embezzlement taking place outside of dentistry, but the attorney’s comments (bolded below) are noteworthy.


LISBON, OH — Melissa K. Brennen, the longtime employee of the county engineer’s office caught stealing tax map money, was sentenced to six months in prison Monday morning by county Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Bickerton.

Brennen, state Route 7, Columbiana, pleaded guilty in September to theft in office, a fourth-degree felony, after $2,940 was found to be missing from deposits made through the office between May 1 and Nov. 8 in 2019.

Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Weikart had asked for a nine-month prison term.

Brennen’s defense attorney, Edward J. Hartwig, argued she led a law-abiding life for more than 40 years and has already been punished, not just with the loss of her job at the county engineer’s office, but also with the loss of another job after a background check was completed.

Hartwig further pointed out that if she had a similar secretarial job in any office that was not a public office, such as a dental office, she would not be charged with theft in office at all.

He provided the court with several letters supporting her and detailing Brennen’s volunteer work.

Brennen’s mother, Cheryl Brennen, told Bickerton her daughter has never been in any trouble her entire life and has been a big part of the family and a volunteer.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Brennen said prior to sentencing. “I apologize to anyone who I have hurt.”

But Bickerton pointed out it was not that Brennen’s conscious got the best of her and she stopped on her own, nor did it appear that she needed the money, which came from the residents of the county.

Additionally, Bickerton said there are questions about whether the thefts were actually happening prior to the dates known. According to Bickerton, there was no recommendation from the engineer’s office about the sentencing of Brennen.

Bickerton said the decision to sentence Brennen to prison was not an easy one, because she believes the people who said Brennen is a good person.

“You are a good person,” Bickerton said, “but you made a mistake.”

Brennen was ordered to pay restitution and the attorneys were both asked to file briefs about whether Brennen should be ordered to pay for the special audit which had to be conducted after the money was found missing.

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Content retrieved from: https://www.salemnews.net/news/local-news/2021/01/ex-employee-of-engineer-gets-prison-for-office-theft/

Missouri Office Manager Charged with Stealing from Dental Firm


Editor’s note:

Prosperident Senior Fraud Examiner Amber Weber was the lead investigator in this case.


CARTHAGE, Mo. — The office manager of a dental firm in Carthage stands accused of misappropriating more than $100,000 of the firm’s funds by allegedly skimming from cash receipts, overpaying herself and using the firm’s credit cards to make unauthorized purchases for herself and others.

Miranda Wolf, 43, of rural Joplin, was charged Dec. 21 in Jasper County Circuit Court with three counts of felony stealing following an investigation by Carthage police. She posted a $2,000 bond this week and was released pending a court appearance on Jan. 13.

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Miranda Wolf

A probable-cause affidavit filed with the charges alleges that Wolf stole from Cornerstone Dental in Carthage while working as office manager there from 2017 to January 2020. Her responsibilities included the handling of the firm’s payroll, cash deposits and credit card and Amazon accounts, according to the affidavit.

During her tenure at Cornerstone Dental, Wolf allegedly failed to deposit in the firm’s bank account $59,421.14 in cash that customers paid to the firm. The affidavit states that she admitted to an investigator that she had skimmed the money from the firm’s cash flow.

She also purportedly gave herself a raise in 2019 that continued into January 2020 without the knowledge or approval of the firm’s owners. The change she made to payroll added $44,823.19 to her pay in 2019 and another $2,702.32 in 2020, according to the affidavit. The self-awarded raise also resulted in increases of the firm’s contribution to her retirement fund by $1,050.12 and of FICA contributions by $3,635.70.

The unauthorized purchases of items for herself and others made with the firm’s credit cards totaled $27,765.80, according to the affidavit. She also purportedly sponsored an acquaintance’s events with funds taken from the firm’s account without the owners’ consent.

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Content retrieved from https://www.joplinglobe.com/news/crime_and_courts/office-manager-charged-with-stealing-from-carthage-dental-firm/article_67c2c49e-065c-58dd-9e44-4e1da33e898d.html

Idaho Patient Charged with Stealing Relative’s Identity to Get Dental Work

Editor’s note — this is why your office’s practice should be to check identification on every new patient.

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IDAHO FALLS — Deputies say an Idaho Falls woman stole a family member’s identity and racked up several thousand dollars in medical debt.

On Aug. 18, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s office received a call from a woman who had been served papers saying she had been sent to a debt collector due to unpaid dental bills, according to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by EastIdahoNews.com. The woman told deputies she suspected that her relative, 50-year-old Toni Jo Lepper, stole her identity to apply for credit at a dentist’s office.

The victim reported that the dentist’s office would not say who applied for over $3,000 in credit in her name back in 2016. While speaking with deputies, the victim said the dentist’s office admitted to never seeing her or having the victim as a patient.

The family member said Lepper has a history of taking family members’ money and stealing their identity to open credit cards. The relative also told investigators that in 2016, Lepper drained her bank account when she stole her identity.

Detectives spoke with Lepper on Sept. 4 about the alleged opening of the account.

“She stated, ‘I needed teeth,’” a detective wrote in the probable cause. “She later explained it was for dentures.”

Lepper explained to detectives she added her family member to the account without permission because the dentist would not give her credit herself. She also told investigators she knew it was wrong but things “got out of control,” according to court documents.

The reported $3,000 bill was sent to a former address of Lepper’s and never paid. It is unknown if the relative ever got a bill or even knew about the account until this summer.

A warrant was issued for Lepper’s arrest and she was charged with felony grand theft by larceny, embezzlement, extortion or by receiving stolen goods. Law enforcement arrested Lepper on Friday then booked and released her from the Bonneville County Jail.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13 at the Bonneville County Courthouse. If convicted of the felony charge, a judge could order Lepper to spend up to 14 years in prison and pay a $5,000 fine.

While Lepper is charged with a crime, it does not automatically mean she committed the crime. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Content retrieved from https://www.eastidahonews.com/2020/10/woman-stole-relatives-identity-to-pay-for-teeth-deputies-say/

MN Sentenced for Stealing $120k

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Sandra Kelley

WALKER — A 61-year-old Backus woman pleaded guilty to embezzling over $100,000 from a Pine River dental office.

According to court documents, Sandra Jean Kelley said she stole the money to support her gambling and shopping habits.

Kelley was convicted and sentenced Monday, March 15, in Cass County District Court on felony theft of diverting funds from Pine River Dental Arts. Kelley, who was charged Sept. 25, 2020, pleaded guilty to the theft before being sentenced. Judge Jana M. Austad ordered a stay of imposition on her sentence, which includes Kelley serving 60 days in Cass County Jail, being placed on supervised probation for five years and paying a $795 fine.

Kelley has until March 29 to report to jail and, once she has served her 60 days, the conditions of her supervised release include not having contact with the victims, not possessing firearms or ammunition, not voting and she must complete a gambling assessment.

According to the criminal complaint, the CEO of Pine River Dental Arts discovered discrepancies leading her to believe Kelley, the former office manager, mishandled company funds. When Kelley was employed, she was the only employee who oversaw the office financial duties, including payroll and accounts receivable.

A Cass County sheriff investigator spoke with Kelley, who admitted she stole from her former employer, that it had been going on since 2013 and she did it to support her gambling and shopping habits. Kelley stated she paid her personal credit card with company funds.

The CEO claimed Kelley took extra hours through payroll and she took cash from the company account for personal use. The CEO reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic office shutdown, she began to examine the business’ records and discovered that between Oct. 9, 2017, and March 31, 2020, Kelley used the corporate checking account to pay $84,633.08 off her personal credit card, the complaint stated. She also discovered Kelley paid for her personal cellphone bill with a corporate credit card on March 30, 2020, in the amount of $852.24.

The CEO reviewed the payroll records and compared them with office records and discovered that between Sept. 24, 2015, and March 9, 2020, Kelley overpaid herself $44,587.65, the complaint stated. The CEO said after comparing business records with cash deposits at the bank, that between Sept. 24, 2015, and March 31, 2020, Kelley took over $80,878.16 in cash.

The complaint further stated Kelley’s daughter-in-law also worked for the business from 2013 through 2019 as a patient coordinator. The CEO reported records showed Kelley overpaid her daughter-in-law as an employee by $27,908.91 between Sept. 24, 2015, and Sept. 5, 2019. Kelley asserted her daughter-in-law was completely unaware that she modified her payroll. The daughter-in-law reported she had no idea anything was wrong with her paychecks.

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Content retrieved from: https://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/crime-and-courts/6686421-Backus-woman-admits-to-stealing-from-former-employer