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Dentist Puts Lid on Fraud and Embezzlement

According to Pat Little, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., C.F.E., embezzlement can affect between 3 and 5 percent of a dental practice’s revenue. Little knows a thing or two about that, and he has dedicated himself to helping dentists avoid pitfalls that can lead to fraud and embezzlement. Unfortunately, when it comes to dental practice embezzlement, it’s often more senior employees that you need to keep an eye one, Little says.
Ed Rabinowitz
PUBLISHED: Thursday, April 20, 2017

“My kids were that age,” he laughs. “But I have that analytical personality. It’s something I don’t regret doing.”
Challenges abound in fraud and embezzlement as well. Little explains that most dental practice fraud doesn’t usually involve dollar amounts that reach into the hundreds of thousands. But when the dollar amounts are smaller, they can often be more difficult to detect.
“A smart embezzler will always keep their embezzlement at a low level, because that's how they avoid being detected,” Little says. “That’s how they move the needle.”
The typical embezzlement tends to be around 3 to 5 percent of the practice’s collections, Little says. That’s the area where the dentist will first notice cash flow issues. If the employee is disciplined enough to stay below 3 percent, they can prolong the embezzlement for a fair amount of time.
“(The embezzler) can earn a pretty good living at that 2 to 3 percent mark,” Little says. “But what happens is they get greedy. They get away with it for a while and they take more chances, and that’s when the doctor notices.”
The main goal of embezzlement examinations, Little explains, is to confirm whether or not any fraud or embezzlement is occurring. If there isn’t any illicit activity, it’s important to understand what made the dentist think there was. Recommendations can then be made to change some practice procedures.
“If it is occurring, we want to let the doctor know why it happened, who’s doing it, what the technique is, and what the doctor’s options are as far as whether the doctor wants to press criminal charges, file a civil suit,” Little says.
It’s also critical that no one from Prosperident step foot in the doctor’s office during an embezzlement examination.
“Everything is done remotely,” Little explains. “We want to make sure the suspect has absolutely no idea that an investigation is being conducted.”
Little says that although he’s had to discontinue clinical dentistry, it’s still very rewarding knowing that he’s serving his profession. He understands where his dental colleagues are coming from; that they went to dental school to become dentists. If he can do something to help them run their practices a little better, or keep them out of trouble, that’s his reward.
“One of the things I hear from conference participants when I lecture is they feel comfortable talking to a dentist, because I know exactly what they’ve been through,” Little says. “It gives me a unique perspective.”
And that’s Little’s approach. He knows the field, he knows the jargon. He puts himself in the dentist’s position to better understand where he or she is coming from.
“It helps that we come from the same backgrounds.”
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