Is It Easy To Embezzle from Dental Practices?

by Jim Du Molin

Embezzlement, theft and fraud are sad facts of life for many business owners – and, unfortunately, dentists are no exception. In fact, the complicated economics of dental practices can make embezzling easy to do and hard to catch.

I’m curious to know how many of you have uncovered evidence of theft in your practices – it’s the topic of our current survey question. (Please vote!) Next week I’ll report back on the results and share some of our dentists’ stories. Plus, working as a dental management consultant for so many years, I’ve picked up dozens of anecdotes about theft. I think my favorite one might be the one about the teenage mail boy… always a classic! (That one’s coming up next.)

Two Million Dollar Swindle

Let’s review the Olympia, Washington case that has brought dental embezzlement into the national spotlight. The bookkeeper of Fisher Jones Family Dentistry and her husband have pleaded guilty to stealing an unbelievable $1.9 million from the dental practice.

Between 1998 and her arrest in 2005, Lori Doughty apparently forged checks to pay off her personal credit cards, used company credit cards, and laundered money through her husband’s business. A forensic examiner followed the couple’s financial tracks and discovered the following purchases:


  • Clothes: $200,000
  • Restaurants: $100,000
  • Hotels: $185,000
  • Airline tickets: $74,000
  • Starbucks: $32,000.



In addition, the couple made substantial donations to local sports teams and schools, owned a boat, purchased expensive jewelry, and bought a 7-Series BMW with a license plate reading “ENVY US.”

Unfortunately, the dental practice’s losses were not insured. They have only recovered about $80,000 of the stolen money. Although the couple has been ordered to pay restitution, no one expects the couple will ever be able to pay back the total sum. Though the dental practice has managed to stay in business, the practice’s two dentists say the theft has set back their retirement plans by ten years.

The bookkeeper entered guilty pleas on 15 of the 19 felony counts against her. Prosecutors dropped the organized crime charge for which she could have faced life in prison, and are recommending a ten-year sentence for her. Her husband claims that she led him to believe the money was from a legitimate source. Nonetheless, he chose to plead guilty to four of the 18 felony counts he faced, saying he wants to protect his children from a trial. Prosecutors are asking for a prison sentence of a year and five months.

What About You?

As a dentist, I’m sure you’ve got some remarkable stories of your own. Be sure to vote in our dental embezzlement survey, and don’t be shy about sharing your own anecdotes on our blog. I’ll report back soon with some of the best highlights!

Jim Du Molin

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.


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