North Carolina dental office employee charged with insurance fraud, embezzlement

RALEIGH — North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey today announced the arrest of Margarita Alejo, 38, of 2500 Carver St., Durham. Alejo is charged with insurance fraud, obtaining property by false pretense, and embezzlement, all felonies.

Special Agents with the Department of Insurance’s Criminal Investigations Division accuse Alejo of manipulating claims with Cigna on a patient, falsifying patient records, opening unauthorized accounts and obtaining approximately $15,000 from patients of Harmony Family Dentistry in Durham. According to the arrest warrant, she did this while working as a front desk employee between November 2017 and May 2018.

Durham police arrested Alejo on Dec. 21, 2018. She was given a $15,000 unsecured bond.

Insurance fraud costs American consumers approximately $80 billion dollars a year. According to Commissioner Causey, fraud costs North Carolinians between 15 and 20 cents of every dollar paid on insurance premiums — and it’s getting worse.

“I am determined to stem the tide of insurance fraud in this state in order to save residents money,” said Commissioner Causey. “That’s why I am dedicated to the mission of our NCDOI law enforcement officers who investigate and prosecute claims of insurance and bail bonding fraud.”

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NC Woman stole $400,000 from dentist, spent it on Disney World and other vacations. Sentenced to five years.

A woman who admitted stealing $409,000 from a Huntersville dental office she managed has been sentenced to a minimum of nearly five years in prison.

Angela Nicole Brown, 45, of Charlotte spent part of the money she stole from the practice of Dr. John Wells on vacations, including to Disney World, the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office said last week.

Brown was sentenced after pleading guilty in Mecklenburg County Superior Court to embezzlement greater than $100,000.

In 2015, Wells found that Brown had written unauthorized checks to herself and taken cash from the office’s business account from February 2010 to February 2015, according to the district attorney’s office.

Wells also discovered that Brown had used the practice’s credit card to pay for her utility bills, gas fill-ups, store purchases and vacations, prosecutors said. Wells did not return calls seeking comment last week. Wells declined to comment about the case when reached by the Observer.

Brown also was ordered to pay the money back.

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NC woman charged with embezzling more than $1.5 million from High Point Regional Health

Editor’s note — as you may know, we normally confine ourselves to investigating dental office embezzlement.  However, we do provide reporting on significant embezzlements in medical offices because the methodologies employed have considerable commonality.



A Kernersville woman is in jail for allegedly embezzling more than $1.5 million from her employer.

Kimberly Hobson, 46, was arrested Tuesday morning by detectives from the High Point Police Department Financial Crimes Unit along with agents from the United States Secret Service and the United States Treasury Department.

 A joint investigation led authorities to discovering the theft during Hobson’s tenure as an employee of High Point Regional Health Systems.

Hobson is charged with felonious embezzlement by employee and is being held in the High Point Jail on $1 million bond.

Hobson is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 15.

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NC dental assistant accused of forging prescriptions

Marla Rebecca Bright

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A woman is accused of forging numerous prescriptions from her work.

Marla Rebecca Bright, 31, of First Broad Drive in Bostic, turned herself in to the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office on May 25 after a representative with Shelby Dental Care Center reported the forgery of doctor’s signatures on prescriptions for the drug Norco, a pill mixture of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, on May 12.

The discovery was made after the dental office received a call from CVS for verification on the signature, according to Shelby Police reports.

Bright allegedly printed off prescriptions and forged a doctor’s signature. First reports indicate eight prescriptions had been forged. Investigators believe a total of 14 prescriptions were printed off.

Each prescription was for varying amounts of the drug, said Capt. Steve Seate.

The initial investigation showed five of the eight prescriptions were filled for people who have no patient history at the office. Investigators do not believe she was selling the medicine.

Bright has been working at the office for more than two years as a dental assistant, Seate said.

When asked about the incident, the practice sent a written response.

“In response to a recent news report about a former Shelby Dental Care Center employee, we would like to clarify our on-going policy regarding the administering of controlled substances. Our policy is one of strict adherence to state and federal guidelines, which we follow carefully. Any member of our team found not to be in compliance with these standards are relieved of their responsibilities and employment with Shelby Dental Care Center. This is now a legal matter and is being handled by the proper local and state authorities… Patient safety and privacy are of the utmost importance to us and we go to great lengths to make sure that neither are compromised,” Dr. Brenton Young and Dr. Pauline Cahill said in the statement.

She is charged with 14 counts of felony common law forgery, 14 counts of felony forging and uttering and 14 counts of felony obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

She has bonded out of jail and is due in court June 27.

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Ballantyne NC dentist charged with embezzlement, calls it a business dispute

A South Charlotte dentist is scheduled to appear in Mecklenburg County Criminal District Court on Monday on an embezzlement charge.

Dr. Steven Ghim is charged with felony embezzlement of more than $100,000, court records show. The offense date is listed in court records as Feb. 5, 2011.

WSOC-TV reported Friday that Ghim is accused of embezzling $124,000 from his Blakeney practice for about 11 months between 2011 and 2012.

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Former NC medical office administrator embezzles $900k; going to prison

Editor’s note — as you may know, we normally confine ourselves to investigating dental office embezzlement.  However, we do provide reporting on significant embezzlements in medical offices because the methodologies employed have considerable commonality.

Mallard embezzled almost $900,000 from women’s center


This story should have said she owed $697,714. Mallard paid $195,444 in restitution of the $893,157.41 she embezzled. The insurance company for Eastern Carolina Women’s Center paid about $100,000.

Original story

Betty Small Hurley Mallard, a 62-year-old accused of embezzling nearly $900,000 from a medical practice, pleaded guilty Monday in Craven County Superior Court and was sentenced to five to seven years in prison.

Mallard, a former administrator at Eastern Carolina Women’s Center, was facing six Class C felony embezzlement charges and up to 60 years in prison.

Judge John Nobles consolidated the charges and gave her the lesser sentence.

Nobles said the case was difficult in many ways and wasn’t like normal criminal court cases. Someone age 62 would be devastated going to prison, he said.

“I guess I could give her 30 years,” he said, “but I wonder how many in here think she would live 30 years.”

Nobles said after listening to the attorneys and doctors from Eastern Carolina Women’s Center, the crime was serious and Mallard needed to go to prison.

“I recognize we’re dealing with somebody with serious mental problems,” he said. “I recognize she has made some restitution, and I recognize the damage she has done to the practice.”

Before passing sentence, Nobles said, “I do hope you’re able to survive it.”

District Attorney Scott Thomas said while he would have liked to see more active prison time for Mallard, he understood the judge’s reasoning.

“The defendant came to court, pleaded guilty, and paid partial restitution,” Thomas said. “We asked for a higher level of an active sentence and the judge decided not to give the highest sentence. But 60 to 84 months in prison for a 62-year-old is still a significant amount of time in prison, especially for somebody with no criminal record, no prior charges or convictions.”

Michael Mills, Mallard’s attorney, said the embezzlement started in September 2005 and continued to November 2015. The aftermath cost Mallard her home, a lot she owned, a beach home, and her retirement savings, he said.

Mills said he saw the embezzlement as one crime instead of the six with which she was charged. But Tonya Montanye, a prosecutor working with Thomas, said when Mallard was working at Eastern Carolina Women’s Center, she was writing checks to herself and giving herself raises to which she was not entitled. When she left the center, she had a $150,000 annual salary.

Co-workers grew suspicious when they saw pictures of an extravagant cruise ship suite she stayed in and began wondering how she could afford it, Montanye said.

 Mallard’s large spending habit included taking $22,000 from the center to pay off one month of her personal credit card bills. In six years, from 2011 to 2015, she took $686,451 from the center to pay on her personal credit card that had monthly charges from $500 to $1,000. She made $35,230.13 in unauthorized purchases from the company credit card, Montanye said.

“She had a very extravagant lifestyle,” she said.

That lifestyle included spending $2,775 at Peacock Plume, making seven purchases one day buying shoes that cost up to $398, Montanye said.

Bill Faison, who was also representing Mallard, said she had a college education and liked working at the center and everyone there liked her.

“But plain and simple, Betty is mentally ill,” Faison said. “It is unfortunate. … it acted out on her job. She spent the money on such silly things: handbags … just nothing. Just threw her life away for nothing.”

But Mallard was not a threat to anyone, Faison said.

The person signing the checks shouldn’t be keeping the books, but that wasn’t the case, he said.

“Because of her mental illness, she has done a terrible thing,” Faison said. “She is now broke, destitute, has given it all up and now faces whatever your honor thinks should be done.”

Dr. Rob Patterson of Eastern Carolina Women’s Center said Mallard’s actions harmed the practice. Two doctors had to resign because they could not afford to pay themselves while trying to compensate for the embezzlement.

Fifty employees were also affected and morale was harmed, which possibly harmed patient care, Patterson said.

Mallard, wearing a blue dress, stood before the judge.

“I would like to express my deepest regret and remorse to Eastern Carolina Women’s Center,” Mallard said in a quiet voice. “I take full responsibility for my actions. … I have great respect for the practice, physicians and employees and felt a great sense of loyalty toward the group.”

Mallard said she realized she had mental health issues that cause her irrational behavior.

“I’m deeply saddened to have disappointed those who placed their faith and confidence in me,” she said.

As part of her sentencing, Nobles ordered Mallard to get a mental health assessment at the Department of Corrections and to reimburse Eastern Carolina Women’s Center the remaining balance of more than $600,000 owed in restitution.

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New Bern, NC woman charged with embezzling from oral surgery practice


A New Bern woman has been charged with seven felony counts of embezzling money from the dental practice where she worked.

Kristen E. Hauber, 43, who listed a 105 Meadows St. address, was charged Monday with taking a total of $7,860.50 from the Coastal Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery office, located at 604 McCarthy Blvd., between Jan. 7 and July 1 of this year.

 According to arrest warrants, sums taken during that time were: $697.50 on Jan. 7; $785 on Feb. 4; $445 on March 16; $1,269 on April 6; $2,898 on May 2; $1,299 on June 21; and $467 on July 1.

Hauber was released on her own recognizance and was scheduled to have her first court appearance on Friday morning.

In North Carolina, a felony embezzlement conviction for less than $100,000 carries a penalty of five to six months in prison.

In addition to its New Bern office, Coastal Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery has an office in Greenville.

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Dentist vs. Dentist — Dr. Nicole LeCann successfully sues partner for misappropriation. Awarded $2.34 million in damages.

N.C. Business Court judge has ruled that a Winston-Salem dentist must pay her former partner $2.34 million in compensatory and punitive damages for transferring money for personal use without permission.

The Nov. 7 ruling by John Jolly Jr., chief special Superior Court judge for complex business cases, concluded a nearly 2½-year-old lawsuit brought by Dr. Nicole LeCann against Dr. Sharon Cobham. The court specializes in complex business cases.

Cobham was accused of making “unjustified expense reimbursements” to herself. The lawsuit said Cobham used the money to pay for personal expenses that include: mortgage payments on a Charlotte condo occupied by her brother; accommodations at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte; the purchase of Prada shoes at Saks Fifth Avenue; purchases at Belk; and a account.

Cobham currently operates Forsyth Family Dental Care at 2912 Maplewood Ave., as well as offices in Burlington and Durham. According to her website, she has plans to open a practice in Greensboro office off Wendover Avenue.

LeCann currently operates practices in Apex and Raleigh.

The dentists did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. David Rooks, Cobham’s attorney, declined Wednesday to comment on the case.

Robert Fields III, LeCann’s attorney, said Wednesday that Cobham did not file a post-trial motion in the 10 days following the ruling. She has 30 days to file an appeal.

“The damages can be paid at any time voluntarily,” Fields said. “There is a legal process through the receiver for collection if necessary.”

According to the judge’s ruling, Cobham began in 2007 “a long series of complicated, wrongful, self-dealing transfers of funds” from their Apex, Burlington, Durham and Raleigh practices to their joint Winston-Salem practice, which eventually went to Cobham’s solely owned Winston-Salem practice.

Cobham was ruled to have committed “constructive fraud” from co-mingling money from the five co-owned dental practices. Jolly awarded $559,888 in compensatory damages and $1.68 million in punitive damages – both listed as personal liabilities.

“The court finds that this amount bears a rational relationship to the sum necessary to punish Cobham for her egregiously wrongful acts, and to deter her and others from committing similar wrongful acts,” Jolly wrote in his ruling.

According to LeCann’s lawsuit, the dentists graduated together from the UNC School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill in 1999 and formed a partnership in 2000 that involved the jointly owned dental practices and three real-estate ventures operated as limited liability companies.

The lawsuit said Cobham served as president of the joint entities, while LeCann served as their administrative manager.

The lawsuit listed the dentists as “close companions and shared a personal relationship,” a phrase Fields said that the judge chose. Although Fields said he did not know what their relationship was, he said it led LeCann to trust Cobham’s business decisions.

Cobham said in her reply to the lawsuit she considered some of her spending as business expenses, such as buying movie tickets and the Prada shoes, as uniform costs. Cobham also said that she provided more money to the five dental practices than she transferred, but, according to the judge, she provided no such documentation.

Once LeCann became aware of the expenditures, she asked that the money be put back into the practices. LeCann filed her lawsuit after Cobham declined to do so. LeCann’s lawsuit also accused Cobham of acts of intimidation and personal abuse, which Cobham denied.

Fields said Cobham’s expenditures were affecting the practices’ ability to make payroll, including checks bouncing, and to pay vendors. The ruling said the practices incurred a combined $54,388 for more than 200 overdraft charges.

Three months after LeCann’s lawsuit was filed, a judge ordered the dissolution of the LLCs and appointed Dr. Joseph Laton as receiver, who happened to be a dentist.

Fields said Laton was able to keep the individual practices open long enough for LeCann and Cobham to form new LLCs and buy the individual practices they now operate.

A second receiver, Christine Mayhew, was appointed in March 2011. Mayhew is responsible for pursuing Cobham’s financial obligations if she doesn’t make them voluntarily, Fields said.

“It remains to be seen whether the defendant has the money” to pay the damages, Fields said.

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NC Woman accused of embezzling $30k

A Greenville woman is accused of embezzling more than $60,000 cash from an area dental office and another organization over a four-year period.

Greenville police arrested Lauren Brantley Yates, 33, of 3240 Bessemer Drive on May 31 and charged her with five counts of embezzlement.

Court records said Yates allegedly embezzled more than $30,000 from A. Daniel Warren III DDS, 1909 Turnbury Drive.

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NC Dental receptionist faces embezzlement, drug charges


MARS HILL — A receptionist at a Mars Hill dental office was arrested on July 16 and charged with embezzlement and distributing controlled substances from her former place of employment.

Anita Michelle Reed, 38, of Mars Hill was charged with four counts of felony embezzlement and felony distribution and dispensing of hydrocodone. The embezzlement involved $3,400 in cash.

Her employers, Drs. Reese Steen and his daughter, McKenzie Snider, reportedly asked law enforcement officials to investigate after an internal audit revealed discrepancies in their books.

Reed faces charges of having called in at least 15 prescriptions for family and friends during the nearly one year of employment. She was released on an $8,200 unsecured bond. Her court date is set for Aug. 5.

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