AP Legal Affairs Writer
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) – A former Massachusetts dentist was sentenced Monday to one year in jail for using paper clips instead of stainless steel posts in root canals.
Dr. Michael Clair pleaded guilty earlier this month to a list of charges, including assault and battery, defrauding Medicaid of $130,000, illegally prescribing medications and witness intimidation.
Prosecutors said Clair sometimes used sections of paper clips when performing root canals in an effort to save money. Some of his patients reported infections and other problems.
Brenda Almeida said her teenage son’s tooth turned black and had to be removed after Clair performed a root canal on him in 2005. She said Clair also performed shoddy dental work on her other two children.
Almeida, who watched Clair get sentenced in Fall River Superior Court Monday, said she was angry about what she considers to be a light sentence.
“He put my kids in pain for months … I hope he rots there,” she said after Judge Richard Moses sentenced Clair to a year in the Bristol County House of Correction.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of five to seven years.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said Clair billed the Medicaid program for the costs of stainless steel posts and submitted false claims using other dentists’ provider numbers.
“The defendant physically and emotionally harmed his patients by taking advantage of the trust they placed in him as their dentist,” Coakley said in a statement. “Mr. Clair brazenly cheated the Medicaid program and defrauded taxpayer dollars, billing for health care services he did not provide.”
Clair, who had a dental practice in Fall River, now lives in Crofton, Md.
The judge said he considered Clair’s acceptance of responsibility, lack of a criminal record and “certain mental health issues” Clair is dealing with in deciding on the one-year sentence. He did not give any specifics on the mental health issues.
Clair’s lawyer, John Dingee, declined to comment.
Moses granted a request from prosecutors to order Clair to stay away from his victims and seven people who worked in his office. Assistant Attorney General Toby Unger said Clair’s former staff members “have expressed concern for their safety,” but did not elaborate.
Moses sentenced Clair to 2 1/2 years, with all but one year suspended, followed by five years of probation.
Clair did not speak during the sentencing, except to thank the judge.
“Thank you, your honor, for your consideration,” he said.
Clair’s license to practice dentistry was suspended in Massachusetts in 2006. A spokesman for Attorney General Martha Coakley said Clair is no longer licensed to practice dentistry in any state.
Prosecutors said Clair was suspended by Medicaid in 2002, but continued to file claims from August 2003 to June 2005 by using the names of other dentists in his practice.
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