A Wisconsin dentist was found guilty of healthcare fraud and other charges after he intentionally damaged his patients’ teeth to boost profits, raking in millions from his scheme.
Scott Charmoli, 61, was convicted of five counts of healthcare fraud and two counts of making false claims about his clients’ treatment last Thursday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
With his sentencing scheduled for June, Charmoli faces up to 10 years for each healthcare fraud charge and a maximum of five years for each of the two other charges.
Prosecutors say that Charmoli had routinely drilled or broken his clients’ teeth on purpose, charging them for additional treatment services to fix the damage he had just done. As a result, Charmoli’s profits ballooned, with the dentist going from making $1.4m and installing 434 crowns in 2014 to $2.5m in 2015, installing over 1,000 crowns, reported the Washington Post.
According to prosecutors, in 2015, Charmoli began pressuring his clients into getting unnecessary crowns, a dental procedure where a tooth-shaped cap is placed on a damaged tooth. Charmoli would drill or break his client’s teeth and send X-rays of the intentional damage to insurance as “before” photos to justify the crown procedures.
One client, Todd Tedeschi, testified that Charmoli pressured him into getting two crowns in one appointment, despite Tedeschi believing that his teeth were fine.
“It seemed excessive, but I didn’t know any better,” said Tedeschi. “He was the professional. I just trusted him.”
Some of the patients that Charmoli badgered into unnecessary procedures were also vulnerable, said prosecutors.
“Some of these patients were extremely vulnerable individuals in abusive relationships, recently widowed, survivors of cancer and living paycheck to paycheck scrounging to afford the co-pays required for the unnecessary procedures he was billing,” said prosecutor Julie Stewart in 2020.
Between 2016 to 2019, Charmoli billed more than $4.2m for crowns, performing more crowns than 95% of dentists in Wisconsin during that time. According to testimony from an insurance company executive, while an average Wisconsin dentist performs fewer than six crowns for every 100 patients, Charmoli’s rate exceeded more than 32 crowns per 100 clients.
By the end of 2020, Charmoli had over $6.8m worth of assets, with vacation homes in Wisconsin and Arizona.
Nearly 100 of Charmoli’s former patients have sued him for medical malpractice, with those cases set to begin once Charmoli’s federal criminal proceedings are over. While Charmoli’s lawyers did not provide comment to the Post following Charmoli’s conviction, his lawyers commented during Charmoli’s December 2020 arraignment, where the dentist pleaded not guilty, saying Charmoli was only guilty of “hard work”.
“He certainly denies that his hard-earned wealth of many, many years of dental practice at the 40 to 60 hour per week range are the product of anything other than his own diligence, hard work and good business acumen,” said defense attorney Nila Robinson at the time.
Charmoli’s schemes were eventually unearthed when he sold his dental practice in 2019. While reviewing his files, the new owners noted the high rate of crown procedures Charmoli had done and reported him to the authorities.
“The health and safety of patients is my highest concern as a doctor. As medical professionals, we take an oath to ‘do no harm’ to our patients, which is why I felt the ethical obligation to report activity that I believed to be suspicious,” wrote the Jackson Family Dentistry owner Pako Major on the practice’s website.
Wisconsin state authorities suspended Charmoli’s dental license in February 2021, pending disciplinary action. Charmoli was first licensed in 1986.