AG Gansler Applauds Conviction of Dentist who Deceived Patients at Massachusetts Practice
Crofton man swapped posts for paper clips, fraudulently billed $130K to Mass. Medicaid program
MD ( Jan. 27, 2012) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that Michael Clair, 53, of Crofton, Maryland, pleaded guilty in Bristol Superior Court in Massachusetts to multiple charges of Medicaid Fraud for inserting pieces of paper clips into patients' mouths as posts in root canals instead of using standard stainless steel posts. Clair, formerly a dentist in Fall River, Massachusetts, billed the Medicaid program for the costs of the posts and submitted false claims using other dentists' provider numbers. He also illegally prescribed prescription drugs, such as Hydrocodone, Combunox and Percocet. Clair has been excluded as a provider from the Medicaid program.
"It's appalling that patients who expected proper dental care instead were the victims of a money-saving scheme," said Attorney General Gansler. "There are no cutting corners when it comes to our individual health and welfare and I thank my colleagues in Massachusetts for ensuring these actions did not go unpunished."
Superior Court Judge Richard T. Moses presided on January 20 when Clair changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on charges of assault and battery (two counts), larceny over $250 (three counts), Medicaid false claims (five counts), illegally prescribing a Class B substance (two counts) and a Class C substance (one count), tampering with evidence (one count) and intimidation of a witness (one count).
The Massachusetts Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Division began investigating the matter in 2005 after it was referred to the office from MassHealth, the state Medicaid program. Authorities determined that Clair was terminated from the Medicaid program in 2002 and did not have authorization to submit claims. Authorities also found that Clair hired several dentists at Harbour Dental, his Fall River practice, who were eligible MassHealth providers and would file claims using their provider numbers for dental services he performed. Authorities say Clair fraudulently billed approximately $130,000 to the Medicaid program for those services between August 2003 and June 2005.
The investigation also revealed Clair's practice of placing pieces of paper clips as posts for root canals inside the mouths of his MassHealth patients, instead of using the standard stainless steel posts. Paper clips can be used temporarily in certain instances, but authorities alleged Clair intended for the clips, which can cause infection, discomfort and pain, to be a permanent fix for his patients. The practice, authorities said, was an effort by Clair to reduce costs.
The investigation also found that Clair unlawfully prescribed Hydrocodone, Combunox and Percocet to staff members, who then gave all, or a portion of the prescribed medication, back to Clair.
On March 12, 2010, a Bristol County Grand Jury returned indictments against Clair.
Subsequent to the indictment in Massachusetts, the Maryland Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and Maryland State Police began to assist in the investigation of Clair, who was then residing in Maryland. Clair was arraigned on April 8, 2010, at which time he entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance and ordered not to have any contact with the victims in the case. While on personal recognizance, Clair pleaded guilty and received probation before judgment in Anne Arundel County District Court for an unrelated second-degree assault charge. On November 2, 2011, the grand jury in Massachusetts returned additional indictments against Clair in connection with evidence tampering and witness intimidation.
Attorney General Gansler would like to thank Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators Valerie Puig and James Hagin, the Maryland State Police and members of the Anne Arundel County Police Department for the significant assistance they provided to the Massachusetts Medicaid Fraud Division.