For Immediate Release - April 08, 2010

Fall River Dentist Arraigned on Medicaid Fraud Charges for Shoddy Dental Work

NEW BEDFORD - A former Fall River dentist, who had previously been excluded as a provider from the Medicaid program, was arraigned today in Bristol Superior Court on Medicaid fraud charges for allegedly inserting pieces of paper clips into patients' mouths as a post in root canals instead of utilizing standard posts made of stainless steel. Michael Clair, age 51, formerly of Fall River and now of Maryland, allegedly billed the Medicaid program for the costs of the post using other dentists' provider numbers and submitted additional false claims to the Medicaid program using other dentists' provider numbers. He is also alleged to have illegally prescribed prescription drugs (Hydrocodone, Combunox and Percocet).

Clair was arraigned in Bristol Superior Court on charges of Assault and Battery (2 counts), Larceny over $250 (3 counts), Medicaid False Claims (5 counts) and illegally prescribing a Class B Substance (2 counts) and a Class C Substance (1 count). Clair entered a plea of not guilty before Judge John Connor. Clair was released on personal recognizance and was ordered not to have any contact with the victims. Clair is due back in court on June 30 for a pre-trial conference.

The Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Division began investigating in 2005 after the matter was referred to the office from MassHealth. Authorities allege that Clair was suspended from the Medicaid program in 2002 and did not have the authority to submit claims to the Medicaid Program. Authorities further allege that Clair hired several dentists at Harbour Dental, his Fall River dental practice, that were eligible MassHealth providers and would file claims with MassHealth using their provider numbers for dental services he performed. Authorities allege Clair fraudulently billed approximately $130,000 to the Medicaid Program for those services for a period between August 2003 and June 2005.

Through the course of the investigation, investigators also learned that Clair placed pieces of paperclips as posts for root canals inside the mouths of his MassHealth patients instead of using the standard stainless steel posts. In certain instances, paperclips can be used temporarily, but authorities allege Clair intended for the paperclips, which can cause infection, discomfort and pain, to be a permanent fix for his patients. The practice, authorities allege, was intended by Clair to reduce costs.

An investigation by authorities also found that Clair unlawfully prescribed Hydrocondone, Combunox and Percocet to staff members, who then gave all or a portion of the prescribed medication back to Clair.

The Attorney General's Office learned of the matter from MassHealth, the Massachusetts Medicaid program, in October of 2005. After a thorough investigation by Attorney General Coakley's Medicaid Fraud Division, the case was presented to a Bristol County Grand Jury.

The indictments were returned on March 12, 2010. Clair was arraigned today in Bristol Superior Court.

Assistant Attorneys General Toby Unger and George Zachos are the prosecutors assigned to this case, which was investigated by Investigator Lisa Bailey of Attorney General Coakley's Medicaid Fraud Division.