Fall River Dentist Sentenced to Two and a Half Years in Jail for Medicaid Fraud and Shoddy Dental Work
Sentence Includes Five Years of Probation
FALL RIVER — A former Fall River dentist has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail after pleading guilty to charges of Medicaid fraud for inserting paper clips into patients’ mouths for root canals instead of using stainless steel posts, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. Bristol Superior Court Judge Richard T. Moses sentenced Michael Clair, 53, to serve one year in the Bristol County House of Correction, followed by five years of probation, with the remaining one and a half years held on a suspended sentence.
Additionally, Clair is excluded from participating in all MassHealth programs and is ordered to stay away and prohibited from having contact with victims and witnesses in this case. A restitution hearing is scheduled for February 27 at 10 a.m. in Bristol Superior Court in Fall River. Clair is not licensed to practice dentistry in Massachusetts or any other state.
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.
“The defendant physically and emotionally harmed his patients by taking advantage of the trust they placed in him as their dentist,” AG Coakley said. “Mr. Clair brazenly cheated the Medicaid program and defrauded taxpayer dollars, billing for health care services he did not provide.”
On January 15, 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. 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.
Assistant Attorneys General Toby Unger and George Zachos prosecuted 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.