For years, a Wisconsin dentist intentionally broke his patients' teeth and then charged them for a crown procedure in order to fix the damage he caused, prosecutors said.
The dentist, Scott Charmoli, then filed claims with insurance companies pulling in millions of dollars.
Charmoli, 61, ran the scheme between 2015 to 2019 when he sold his practice, Jackson Family Dentistry.
In late 2020, he was indicted on several charges. On Friday, a federal jury convicted the former dentist of five counts of healthcare fraud and two counts of making false statements related to healthcare matters, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
Prosecutors said in 2015 Charmoli began "aggressively" trying to convince his patients' to get crown procedures, even though they did not need them.
He would show patients an X-ray of a line or space on their tooth and tell them that it was a fracture or some type of decay, according to an indictment. After the patient agreed to the crown — a procedure where a tooth is fixed using a cap — he would use his drill to break off a portion of the patient's tooth and fix it, it alleges.
Charmoli would then take another X-ray of the broken tooth to submit to the insurance company, the indictment says.
"Insurance companies assumed that those images of damage represented the pre-operative condition of the teeth, and as a result, paid the claims. Many of Charmoli’s patients also paid significant co-pays for these crown procedures," the news release states.
In addition to submitting the X-rays, he would make false statements to the insurance companies when they denied his claims.
Charmoli billed more than $4.2 million for crown procedures between 2016 and 2019 from just one insurance company, prosecutors said.
According to evidence gathered during the investigation, he performed over 1,000 crowns each in 2015 and 2016. From 2017 to 2019, he performed more than 700 each year.
Former patient Todd Tedeschi testified during Charmoli's trial that the dentist convinced him to get two crowns done at once even though his teeth were not bothering him, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"It seemed excessive, but I didn’t know any better," Tedeschi said. "He was the professional. I just trusted him."
In February 2021, Charmoli's license was suspended pending an investigation by the state’s Dentistry Examining Board, the newspaper reports. He also faces medical malpractice lawsuits in Washington County brought by nearly 100 former patients. The suits have been on hold pending the outcome of the federal criminal case.
Pako Major, the new owner of Jackson Family Dentistry, said in a 2020 note that he discovered Charmoli's misconduct after reviewing patient files.
"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," he wrote. "My heart goes out to any patients who may have been mistreated in this situation, and my goal is to help rebuild their trust and faith in the dentistry profession through excellent care and patient service."
Nila Robinson, Charmoli's attorney, could not immediately be reached on Wednesday. During a 2020 arraignment, she denied the allegations against her client.
“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,” Nila Robinson said, according to court documents.
Charmoli is scheduled to be sentenced in June. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each healthcare fraud conviction, and five for each false statement conviction.