A Savage resident and former employee of Smiles of Distinction in Savage will spend the next seven years on probation for embezzling more than $36,000 in cash from the dental practice.
Melissa Kate Arndt, 51, entered an Alford plea in Scott County District Court last month in regards to a felony theft by swindle charge, and on Jan. 22, Scott County Judge Caroline Lennon sentenced her to seven years of supervised probation. Charges of felony theft and insurance fraud were dismissed.
Arndt was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution, and she was given 90 days of electronic home monitoring, though she may be eligible for work release.
By entering an Alford plea, Arndt maintained her claim to innocence but acknowledged that the evidence would be sufficient to convict her.
According to the criminal complaint, Savage police were contacted on Nov. 2, 2013 by a dentist at Smiles of Distinction, 4300 Egan Drive, who reported that he had fired Arndt a month earlier because he suspected that she had been embezzling money from the practice. He told the police that he suspected Arndt of embezzling between $20,000 and $50,000 from the business by not making cash bank deposits that was required of her, and by not requiring family and friends to pay co-pays or portions of bills not covered by insurance.
On Nov. 26, 2013, the dentist provided police with documentation allegedly supporting his claims. He told the police that he bought the business in 2007, and that Arndt had been an employee under previous ownership, so he decided to keep her on the staff. Arndt was responsible for front office work, deposits, scheduling and working with patients.
The dentist eventually opened a business account at a nearby bank in Savage, and after making an initial deposit, he tasked Arndt with making the cash deposits at the bank from that point forward. However, the dentist received a notice from the bank in December 2012 stating that there had been no transactions on his account for several years. When the dentists asked Arndt about the lack of deposits, she allegedly said that “they just didn’t receive many” cash payments, according to the complaint.
Before Arndt was fired, two other employees approached the dentist and stated that they believed Arndt was stealing from the practice. After Arndt was fired, the dentist started reviewing financial records, and he found that in 2008, a total of $11,726 in cash had been taken in by the business, but that none of that money was ever deposited in the practice’s bank account. He also found that in 2009, a total of $9,961 in cash had been taken in, but that none of it was ever deposited.
Further investigation by the dentist found that Arndt masked the alleged thefts by using “credit adjustments,” as she would allegedly delete entered cash payments and would re-enter them as cash adjustments. One example that the dentist gave was a billing for patient “T.L.” dated June 7, 2012 through July 22, 2013. The dentist said he spent a lot of time working on the patient’s teeth during those dates and the patient paid for most of it in cash. On June 7, 2012, the patient paid $1,217.54 toward his bill and the entry was listed as a credit adjustment and on July 22, 2013, Arndt listed a $860.20 amount owed by the patient as a credit adjustment. The dentist believed that all of the money was taken by Arndt instead of being deposited in the bank account.
The complaint stated that cash totals taken by Arndt from the dental business are $36,128.81
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