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/

Prejudicial Comments By Judge – Montana Woman Gets New Trial

Linda Faye Harris

The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed a Missoula woman’s two embezzlement convictions based on a few key factors, among them a state prosecutor’s concession she is entitled to a new trial. 

Linda Faye Harris, 61, will also appear before a new judge following Tuesday’s order. In her appeal, Harris argued the judge presiding over her case showed bias when he was open about both prematurely considering her guilty and surmising women to be more often guilty of embezzlement than men.

“It’s women that commit this crime most of the time,” District Judge Robert “Dusty” Deschamps III said, according to the transcripts from the January 2018 sentencing hearing included in court filings. “And they commit it big time. And it seems like once they start doing it, they just keep coming back. And she’s evidence of that pattern.”

Harris was convicted in a bench trial in 2017 on two counts of felony theft by embezzlement for taking $9,493 from Gentle Dental and $24,890 from Northwest Denture Center. 

Harris initially pleaded no contest to both charges. After hearing evidence presented at a restitution hearing, however, Deschamps asked Harris if she’d like to withdraw the pleas and challenge the charges at trial. She agreed, and Deschamps set the case for a bench trial.

Supreme Court Justices noted in their order, filed on Feb. 25, that Deschamps never asked Harris if she was waiving her right to a jury trial. Additionally, he had declined prosecutors’ attempts to reintroduce evidence heard at the earlier restitution hearing, instead deciding to refer back to the testimony from the restitution hearing, justices wrote. Based on that testimony, Deschamps told Harris he was already mulling a guilty verdict on one count before the bench trial had concluded.

When Deschamps convicted Harris on both counts, sentencing her to 20 years in state prison with 15 years suspended, he set the sentence to run consecutively with a previous sentence for an earlier embezzlement, a $180,000 theft for which she was serving a suspended sentence when the new charges came along. 

Harris’ attorneys argued in her appeal that Deschamps had imposed an illegal sentence because it was based, at least in part, on her gender. According to court filings that include parts of the transcript from Harris’ sentencing hearing, Deschamps had deemed embezzlement charges to be “women’s crimes.” 

“… And I just think prison authorities and the Department of Corrections need to take that into consideration when releasing these people on parole. They’re serial offenders.”

Harris’ attorneys argued in their August 1, 2019, opening brief that Deschamps’ statements warranted at least a new sentencing before a different judge. 

Assistant Attorney General Brad Fjeldheim conceded in a Feb. 20 filing that Harris is entitled to a new trial before a new judge because she had not waived her right to a jury trial. Additionally, Fjeldheim wrote, Deschamps should not have relied on testimony from the restitution hearing during Harris’ bench trial. 

Pacific Islands Embezzlement – Guam Woman Joins Million-dollar Club

A woman accused of writing more than $1.1 million in fraudulent checks to herself using her employer’s bank account pleaded guilty to 10 counts of bank fraud.

Teresa Pereda signed a plea agreement that was filed in the District Court of Guam on Jan. 31, admitting that she diverted money from Dr. Robert Gatewood’s company for her own use by writing unauthorized company checks to herself and associated entities for eight years.

Managed victim’s office for 27 years

Pereda was the office manager for Gatewood and had worked for him for 27 years.

The scheme began in 2011, when Pereda wrote a check to an entity associated with her, Nored Inc., in the amount of $7,317. A week later, a check for $3,397 was written out to Transpacific Association Inc.

Two more checks were written totaling $9,006 in 2011.

In 2012, Pereda wrote six checks totaling nearly $24,000.

In the subsequent years, Pereda continued writing unauthorized checks increasing the amount she took from her employer.

In 2014, she wrote two checks totaling $15,500. In 2015, four checks worth $26,950 were cashed and deposited into her accounts. In 2016, checks ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 were written to Pereda or Blessed Wholesale totaling $55,444.

In 2017, she wrote five checks totaling $34,851. The following year, three checks totaled $30,585. The plea agreement states Pereda wrote seven fraudulent checks in January and February 2019 totaling $54,947.

Prosecutor: Pereda wrote 284 fraudulent checks

According to court documents, Pereda had access to the company’s bank account and routinely completed checks linked to the account in order to pay the company’s bills.

The government alleges she diverted money from the company for her own use by writing the 284 fraudulent checks to herself and other associated entities and submitted them to obtain cash and for subsequent deposits into bank accounts under her control.

Pereda obtained signed blank checks from her boss based on her fraudulent representation that the checks would be used to pay company bills.

The plea agreement states she falsified check stubs to make it appear the checks were issued for business purposes and she falsely recorded the transactions in the company’s ledger.

Pereda was indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 11, 2019, and charged with 40 counts of bank fraud. She was picked up by U.S. marshals and has been held in custody awaiting a status hearing scheduled for April 29 before Senior Judge John Coughenour.

Content retrieved from: https://www.postguam.com/news/local/woman-pleads-guilty-in-million-dollar-fraud-case/article_7a04e122-4664-11ea-a96c-875f88b239d3.html

California Dental Office Worker Arrested For Allegedly Obtaining Fraudulent Prescriptions

Kristina Vargas

Thousand Oaks Patrol deputies were dispatched to a report of fraudulent prescription activity in Newbury Park. The investigating deputy learned that Kristina Vargas worked in a dental office and had fraudulently used a dentist’s information to obtain Carisoprodol (also known as Soma) for herself on 11 separate occasions dating back to September of 2018. Once the initial information was obtained, the investigating deputy contacted the Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit for assistance. Detectives gathered evidence and conducted multiple interviews confirmed the fraudulent prescriptions.

On December 31, 2019, Vargas was located and arrested in Newbury Park for 11173(a) HS – obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, 470(b) PC –forgery and 459 PC – commercial burglary.    Vargas was interviewed and then booked into custody at the Pre-Trial Detention Facility in Ventura. Vargas bailed out of custody and her next court date is set for January 17, 2020 for her arraignment.

Content retrieved from https://www.citizensjournal.us/dental-office-worker-arrested-for-allegedly-obtaining-fraudulent-prescriptions/