For Immediate Release - January 23, 2012

Fall River Dentist Pleads Guilty to Medicaid Fraud Charges for Shoddy Dental Work

Will Be Sentenced On January 30 in Bristol Superior Court

NEW BEDFORD — A former Fall River dentist pleaded guilty in Bristol Superior Court on Medicaid fraud charges for inserting pieces of paper clips into patients’ mouths as a post in root canals instead of using standard posts made of stainless steel.  Michael Clair, 53, will be sentenced at 9:00 a.m. on January 30 in Bristol Superior Court.

Clair, formerly of Fall River and now of Maryland, 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 (Hydrocodone, Combunox and Percocet). Clair has been excluded as a provider from the Medicaid program.

On Friday, before Superior Court Judge Richard T. Moses, Clair changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on charges of assault and battery (2 counts), larceny over $250 (3 counts), Medicaid false claims (5 counts), illegally prescribing a class B substance (2 counts) and a class C substance (1 count), tampering with evidence (1 count) and intimidation of a witness (1 count).

The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Division began investigating in 2005 after the matter was referred to the office from MassHealth, the state Medicaid program. Authorities determined that Clair was suspended from the Medicaid program in 2002 and did not have the authority to submit claims to the Medicaid Program. Authorities also found that Clair hired several dentists at Harbour Dental, his Fall River dental practice, that 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 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 say, was intended by Clair to reduce costs.   

An investigation by authorities 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. 

After a thorough investigation by Attorney General Coakley’s Medicaid Fraud Division, the case was presented to a Bristol County Grand Jury. On March 12, 2010, the grand jury returned indictments against Clair.  He 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 this case. On November 2, 2011, the grand jury returned additional indictments against Clair in connection with tampering with evidence and intimidating a witness. Today he pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on January 30.

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.  The Massachusetts Medicaid Program, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the Maryland State Police assisted in this investigation. 

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