Dentist pleads guilty in paper clip fraud case

A former Fall River, MA, dentist has pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud charges for inserting pieces of paper clips into patients' mouths as posts in root canals instead of using standard posts made of stainless steel.

Michael Clair, DDS, 53, 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, according to the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts. He also illegally prescribed prescription drugs (hydrocodone, Combunox, and Percocet). He has been excluded as a provider from the Medicaid program.

Dr. Clair previously had pleaded not guilty to the charges. But on January 20, before Superior Court Judge Richard Moses, he changed his plea to guilty on charges of assault and battery (two counts), larceny of more than $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 intimidating a witness (one 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 Dr. Clair was suspended from the Medicaid program in 2002 and did not have the authority to submit claims to the Medicaid program. They also found that Dr. Clair hired several dentists at Harbour Dental, his Fall River dental practice, who were eligible MassHealth providers and would file claims using their provider numbers for dental services he performed. Dr. Clair fraudulently billed approximately $130,000 to the Medicaid program for those services between August 2003 and June 2005, according to authorities.

Through the course of the investigation, investigators also learned that Dr. Clair placed pieces of paper clips as posts for root canals inside the mouths of his MassHealth patients instead of using the standard stainless steel posts. In certain instances, paper clips can be used temporarily, but authorities allege Dr. Clair intended for the paper clips to be a permanent fix for his patients.

In addition, authorities found that Dr. Clair unlawfully prescribed hydrocodone, Combunox and Percocet to staff members, who then gave all or a portion of the prescribed medication back to Dr. Clair.

After a thorough investigation by the Medicaid Fraud Division, the case was presented to a Bristol County Grand Jury, which indicted Dr. Clair in March 2010. After pleading not guilty in April 2010, he was released on personal recognizance and ordered not to have any contact with the victims in this case. But on November 2, 2011, the grand jury returned additional indictments against Dr. Clair in connection with tampering with evidence and intimidating a witness.

He will be sentenced on January 30 in Bristol Superior Court.

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