MN Woman Suspected of Embezzling $800k from Practice; Cites Financial Difficulties

Shirley Marie Dunn

A onetime office manager for an Edina dental practice stole nearly $400,000 from her employer and possibly much more for lavish out of town trips, superstar concerts, her children’s school fees and other items, according to charges filed Monday and other court records.

Shirley M. Dunn, 45, of Shakopee, was charged in Hennepin County District Court with seven counts of felony theft by swindle in connection with the roughly $395,000 she stole from York Dental from 2015 until she was fired in the fall of 2018.

However, a search warrant affidavit listing a vast and varied array of purchases reveals that police suspect her thievery began years earlier and totaled somewhere north of $800,000.

Dunn was charged by summons and has a court appearance scheduled for Aug. 11. Dunn said she was unaware that charges were filed and declined to comment about the allegations.

The search warrant affidavit filed five months after she was fired alleged that “Dunn conducted approximately $175,000 in unauthorized transactions on her company-issued credit card and found approximately $680,000 in missing deposits.”

The affidavit pointed to many suspicious purchases Dunn made dating back to 2012 that police connected to postings on her Facebook page. They include:

• Trips with friends to the Sanctuary Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

• A limo ride for three girls heading to a Justin Bieber concert.

• Attendance at a Luke Bryan concert in Minneapolis.

• A visit to Los Angeles and “Endless Mimosas and brunch,” according to a comment accompanying a photo on her Facebook page.

“Dunn was living well beyond her means, which is a motive for why she was embezzling money from York Dental and making unauthorized transactions on the company credit card,” the affidavit read.

The affidavit also revealed $16,000 spent on beauty supplies, about $2,600 for iTunes and roughly $26,000 at clothing retailers.

According to the criminal complaint:

Dunn joined York Dental as office manager for its main Edina location and Shakopee clinic, and was responsible for much of the business’ accounting responsibilities.

One of York Dental’s owners determined that Dunn had been using a business credit card for personal uses. She admitted to the misuse and was fired in October 2018.

The auditor discovered that “most of the cash received by the practice had not been deposited and that the dental practice sustained a significant loss,” the charges read.

Authorities also reviewed records for Dunn’s business credit card, and York Dental identified many unauthorized charges. They were for flights for her and her boyfriend, dry cleaning, dining and her children’s school fees.

Her Amazon account also showed purchases for cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, home decor and other items “not related to the dental practice,” the charges continued.

The criminal complaint also said that Dunn “had financial difficulties,” which the charging document did not address in specificity.

At the time the charges were filed, Dunn was working as an office manager for an unspecified landscape company.

Content retrieved from: https://www.startribune.com/onetime-office-manager-suspected-of-stealing-at-least-800k-from-edina-dental-practice/571921232/

Oregon Office Manager Charged with Embezzling $140k

Shannon Wilson

An office manager at a Salem dentist’s office was charged with embezzling more than $140,000 over seven years from the business.

Shannon Raye Wilson, 42, of Amity, was arrested by Salem police detectives July 2 for the crimes of aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and first-degree aggravated theft, according to Lt. Treven Upkes with the Salem Police Department. 

Using her position as office manager at the clinic of Margaret Giruc D.D.S. in Salem, Wilson allegedly embezzled company funds between 2013 and 2020, Upkes said. Officials said there is no indication at this time that Wilson used any patient information to “facilitate her criminal activity.”

The Marion County District Attorney’s office is still reviewing the case, according to Deputy District Attorney Amy Queen.

According to a probable cause statement, on April 3, Ofc. Roger Hibbeler took a report from the dentist’s business owner who said an employee obtained an “unauthorized line of credit” and used it to embezzle at least $146,107 belonging to the business. 

The suspect was in charge of payroll and business finances including paying bills with the company credit card. She had full access to company accounts and records, and was also in charge of bookkeeping. 

The victim told police she did not notice anything was wrong until she was forced to close the dentist’s office temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In reviewing finances, she noticed the company card had an outstanding balance of $18,000. She also discovered that a second “unauthorized” credit card issued to the dentist’s office was opened using the suspect’s home as a billing address. 

The card had been active as early as March 2013 and had numerous transactions for restaurants, bars, hotels, retails stores, airline tickets, subscriptions, groceries and car rentals.

The victim said business profits from her bank account were being used to pay the credit card balances. 

Wilson was taken lodged at the Marion County Jail July 2 and released on recognizance the same day. If charges are filed by the district attorney’s office, Wilson’s arraignment is scheduled at 9 a.m. Aug. 3.

Content retrieved from: https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/crime/2020/07/16/salem-dentist-office-manager-charged-embezzlement-business-police/5440139002/

Two Dental Assistants from the Same Practice Charged with Defrauding Insurance

Alma Almendariz

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The state Department of Insurance says a second dental assistant from the same office has been charged with insurance fraud, identity theft and grand theft after allegedly falsifying insurance claims.

Alma Almendariz, 35, was booked Wednesday into Kern County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on 67 felonies, according to the department and court website. She’s held on $690,000 bail.

Almendariz used insider knowledge to submit fraudulent insurance claims to AFLAC for procedures that were not performed, according to a Department of Insurance release. She is accused of submitting 23 fraudulent claims for her and her son and receiving $10,165 from AFLAC.

Maria Uranday

Maria Uranday, who worked at the same dental office as Almendariz, pleaded not guilty in June to similar charges and is next due in court in August. The dental office was not named in the news release.

Content retrieved from: https://www.kget.com/news/local-news/second-dental-assistant-from-the-same-office-charged-with-insurance-fraud/

FBI — Oregon Woman Faces Charges for Stealing from Dental Clinic — also Indicted for $1 Million Missing from Medical Clinic

Anndrea Jacobs

May 28, 2020, an Oregon woman, Anndrea D. Jacobs, age 49, turned herself into the U.S. Marshals Service on an outstanding warrant for bank fraud. The FBI obtained the underlying criminal complaint, alleging that Jacobs stole checks payable to a Hood River, Oregon, dental practice worth more than $22,000 between August and October 2019. Jacobs worked as a contractor for the clinic until her termination in May 2020. The FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation Division agents are working this case jointly.

She made her initial appearance today, May 28, 2020, on these charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta in the U.S. District Court in Portland. The judge ordered that Jacobs be detained pending a continued hearing on the government’s motion to revoke her pretrial release in an older case against her.

Jacobs is already scheduled to go to trial in August 2020 on a separate indictment charging her with similar behavior at a medical practice in La Grande. The 2018 indictment spells out 15 charges, including: four counts of wire fraud, five counts of filing false income tax returns, four counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false income tax returns, one count of false impersonation of a U.S. Government employee, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Content retrieved from: https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/portland/news/press-releases/oregon-woman-faces-federal-charges-for-allegedly-stealing-funds-from-dental-clinic

Kristi Heffington’s Accomplice Convicted; Loses Appeal

Jami Peterson

Visitors to our Hall of Shame are probably familiar with the saga of Kristi Heffington.

(The main story on Ms. Heffington is HERE, a story about a friend of Ms. Heffington who was also indicted is HERE, and we placed a business, S.O.S. Dental Experts, for which Ms. Heffington appears to have some involvement, on our watchlist — see story HERE.)

As hard as it is to believe, there is more. A woman named Jami Marie Peterson, also of Maryland, was convicted of theft scheme, conspiracy to commit theft scheme, identity fraud, and conspiracy to commit identity fraud for being Ms. Heffington’s accomplice in various fraud schemes. The court transcripts reveal that Ms. Heffington and Ms. Peterson had made plans to open a bar together and that they needed money to do so. The transcript indicates that Ms. Heffington was the sister of Ms. Peterson’s fiance.

In May 2020, Ms. Peterson’s appeal of her convictions was denied. The appeals judge specifically highlighted that “the trial court indicated that it had the opportunity to observe Ms. Peterson and judge her credibility and that ‘quite honestly I don’t believe a word [she] said’ “.

The appeal judge also highlighted Ms. Peterson’s conflicting statements around her involvement with creating Care Credit accounts used by Ms. Heffington in the perpetuation of her fraud. Ms. Peterson initially denied her involvement in the creation of these accounts but subsequently issued an “affidavit of correction” in which she did confirm her involvement.

Here is the full appeal court decision:

Peterson-V-State-COA-affirmed

Las Vegas Woman Arrested for Embezzlement

Danielle Powers

When you talk with Prosperident’s Scott Clfford for even a few minutes his ability to out think embezzlers shines through clearly. As a Supervising Examiner, Scott handles some of Prosperident’s most challenging cases.

One of Scott’s recently completed cases resulted in this woman, Danielle Powers, being arrested for embezzlement. She is charged with four counts of theft over $5,000. Her bail was set at $250,000.

Here is Danielle’s arrest report:

A search of Nevada court records reveals that a Danielle Powers was charged in 2013 for forgery, fraud and embezzlement, as well as 2004 charges for burglary and fraud, and 2003 charges for burglary and drug possession.

S.O.S Dental Experts Added to our Watchlist

We are placing this business on our watchlist. We have written elsewhere about Maryland’s Kristi Heffington, who pled guilty to three charges related to her work in a dental office (see https://www.prosperident.com/maryland-woman-indicted-for-embezzlement/ for discussion).

Kristi is currently on parole after serving jail time for her comvictions, and we do note that a parole violation caused her sentence to be increased.

After her termination from that dental practice, Kristi subsequently worked for several companies performing outsourced insurance claim submission for dentists. A check with two companies for which she had performed this work confirmed that she was no longer with either company.

A new company performing similar work, S.O.S Dental Experts, recently showed up on our radar. A search of corporate records reveals that it was created as a Wyoming LLC on November 26, 2019. Wyoming is a jurisdiction that permits “anonymous” corporations, where the names of officers, directors and stockholders are not made public. The address of the company listed on its website tracks back to a Wyoming “agent” who is in the business of creating similar companies.

Unusual for a company like this, the “about us” section of the company’s web site makes no mention of who the ownership or management of the company are, and simply points to 20 years of experience in the dental field.

We received communication from Markia Hood, a former co-worker of Ms. Heffington at one of the companies that we had contacted. Ms. Hood (who sometimes goes by the last names Rittenbaugh or Johnson) stated that Ms. Heffington had no involvement with S.O.S Dental Experts, and that Ms. Hood was the sole owner of that company.

This is somewhat at odds with what Ms. Hood claimed on her Facebook page, where Ms. Hood said this:

And a part of the company’s website includes “A Note from the Owners” (plural), and seems to suggest that the owners worked together previously, as we mentioned that Ms. Hood and Ms Heffington had done.

We did question Ms. Hood on the numerous references to “Eunice” in the testimonials on the company’s Facebook page (Kristi Heffington’s middle name is Eunice) such as the one shown below:

We also asked about the blog section of the company’s website, which was set up by “Matthew Heffington” (Kristi’s husband is coincidentally named Matthew Heffington).

To date, we have not received a response to these questions, and we note that Mr. Heffington’s name has subsequently been removed from the blog.

The lack of transparency on the website and apparent contradictions between what we are told by Ms. Hood and some independently gathered information certainly raise the question of involvement of Ms. Heffington, and encourage caution when dealing with this company.

Lots Going On at Michigan’s Muskegon Family Care

There seems to be a lot of activity at this federally-funded medical and dental clinic.

First, media reports suggested that the State Police were investigating “possible embezzlement involving staff members at the Muskegon Family Care facility in Muskegon Heights,” (see https://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/2020/02/police-investigate-possible-embezzlement-from-muskegon-family-care.html for discussion.) The media reports single out former CEO Sheila Bridges and discuss a 2014 federal review that identified inappropriate spending on the part of Bridges, including first-class airfares, five-star hotels, and limousines.

The interim CEO of the clinic, citing financial difficulties, laid off about two thirds of the employees on February 14, 2020 and announced that it would shut down on March 13, 2020.

Some of the fired workers commenced a lawsuit on February 16, claiming that they received inadequate notice of termination.

On February 17, 2020, a news release indicated that the shut down would actually take place at the end of March 2020. (see https://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/2020/02/muskegon-family-care-health-clinic-announces-closure-apologizes-for-misunderstanding.html)

Next, on February 21, Sheila Bridges, the former CEO, filed a “whistleblower lawsuit” against the clinic, claiming claiming it had a “sexually hostile” working environment, and that she was fired after making a complaint against a member of the clinic’s board in November, 2019.

Her lawsuit also claims that officials at Muskegon Family Care made “false statements” to others that implied Bridges had embezzled from the health clinic. (see https://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/2020/03/former-ceo-files-whistleblower-lawsuit-against-muskegon-family-care-clinic.html for a discussion of the lawsuit).

On February 28, 2020, Dan Oglesby, the newly-appointed CEO of the clinic, announced that the planned closure would not be taking place and that the clinic is accepting new patients. (see https://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/2020/02/new-muskegon-health-clinic-ceo-makes-stunning-announcement-it-wont-close.html)

Stay tuned – we expect that there is more to follow.

Glendale CA Man Sentenced to Three Years for $2.1 Million Bank Scam Involving Dentists

A Glendale man was sentenced to three-plus years in prison for stealing the identities of at least 11 dentists and filing fraudulent claims to banks that offer lines of credit to dentists, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.

Ararat Yesayan, 39, was ordered to pay $2.1 million in restitution. In May he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

From October 2010 to March 2014, Yesayan and co-conspirators impersonated dentists via personal identifying information such as dental license numbers, according to the Department of Justice statement.

Those involved in the conspiracy acquired commercial office space in the names of victim dentists using this personal information, and then submitted change of address requests to the Dental Board of California. Mail was sent to the newly opened sham offices, among them offers for lines of credit.

“Using the victim dentists’ names, Yesayan and others applied for lines of credit offered by banks to dentists and, upon approval, submitted numerous fraudulent dental claims in the names of fake patients for procedures that were never performed,” the Department of Justice said in its statement.

Once the claims were approved by the banks, money was wired to Yesayan-controlled bank accounts. Banks affected include Citibank and GE Capital Retail Finance Bank, now Synchrony Bank.

Two other Glendale men were allegedly involved in the scheme, Varooj Arakelian, 49, and Artin Sarkissians, 42. Arakelian is scheduled to go on trial June 23.

Content retrieved from: https://www.sfvbj.com/news/2020/mar/04/glendale-man-sentenced-21-million-bank-scam-involv/