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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Dentist charged by state

  • A Hamlin dentist was arrested and charged with deceptive practices dating back six years.

    James R. Fruehan, 52, who lives in Clarks Summit and operates a dental office in Hamlin, was released on $20,000 unsecured bond Tuesday after being arrested by state officials.
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  • — A Hamlin dentist was arrested and charged with deceptive practices dating back six years.
    James R. Fruehan, 52, who lives in Clarks Summit and operates a dental office in Hamlin, was released on $20,000 unsecured bond Tuesday after being arrested by state officials.
    The case is being handled by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.
    The accused operates Fruehan Family Dentistry located at 15 Fruehan Drive on Route 590 in Hamlin. He is licensed to practice dentistry by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
    A key part of the case is that Fruehan is an enrolled provider in the Medical Assistance Program (MA) and has been enrolled since March 1999.
    According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by Special Agent Ralph Zezza, the investigation began following a complaint received through the Department of Health and Human Services.
    "The allegations involve services not rendered to MA recipients and false claims submitted to MA for services not rendered," states the complaint.
    It accuses Fruehan of committing insurance fraud "for several years."
    In total, the complaint claims that Fruehan committed fraud in the amount of $75,000.
    Part of the complaint says Fruehan billed for dental sealants and prophylaxis even though when they were applied to patients, it was by people who were not licensed to do so.
    An investigator met with a dental consultant who said when those sealants are applied it must be by a licensed provider or it cannot be reimbursed through the MA program.
    The affidavit said that during the course of the investigation, various employees of the dental office were interviewed. One employee who worked in the office from 2005-2010 said that "most" of the patients were MA recipients.
    She told investigators that "50 percent of Fruehan's patients have fraudulent claims submitted in their names."
    In one example, the woman said the dentist would write "sealant" on the chart of children which indicated that a sealant was done and should be billed.
    The patient would later see the employee who said she saw the sealants were not done. However, she told investigators it was written on the cart by the dentist and billed by office staff.
    She further stated that Fruehan would "not let parents come back to the examination room with them, so they would not see whether he did the sealant work or not."
    This same employee told investigators that Fruehan would also make dental assistants do teeth cleanings on children. She said it was against the law because the dental assistants "were not licensed to do this work." The dentist would then bill for the work performed.
    After talking with this employee, state agents issued a search warrant on Feb. 9 of this year at the dental office.
    Page 2 of 2 - At that time, agents from the Attorney General's Office interviewed staff members and the dentist.
    One dental assistant told investigators that even though she was not licensed to do scaling of teeth, she did it anyway.
    The assistant also outlined the procedures of how various notations are written on the charts. She said that is how billing is done.
    "... he (Fruehan) screwed it up by writing extra stuff in the patient charts," she told investigators.
    Also during the investigation, officers interviewed Fruehan, according to the affidavit.
    Asked about doing cleanings for children under the age of 12, Fruehan "admitted that he knew it was wrong for dental assistants to do cleanings, but he didn't think it would hurt the kids."
    During the search warrant execution, agents also seized patient files to be presented as evidence.
    Based on information provided by employees, officials determined the dentist billed $75,250 between March 1, 2006 and March 1, 2012.
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