White Plains dentist charged with fraud taken to jail

A White Plains dentist accused of defrauding her insurance company was taken to jail today, after a judge determined she purposely missed mandatory meetings connected to her criminal case.

Dr. Joanne Baker, (left) who had been free on $10,000 bail, will remain in the Westchester County jail in Valhalla until Oct. 19, when a judge plans to sentence her on charges of third-degree grand larceny and insurance fraud.

Baker, 51, had pleaded guilty to those charges, both felonies, on May 19. She was supposed to be sentenced today. She is now attempting to withdraw her guilty plea, in which she agreed to serve five years probation with 24 weekends in jail and pay nearly $60,000.

Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli said Baker, a Scarsdale resident, made no effort to meet with the Westchester County Department of Probation for a pre-sentencing report, which is mandatory for all defendants who plead guilty or are convicted at trial.

Baker’s new attorney, Peter Tilem, said his client spent two weeks in June at Four Winds, a psychiatric treatment hospital in Katonah, and is currently under a doctor’s care and on medication. Despite her condition, Tilem said, “she is taking this very seriously.”

Assistant District Attorney Brian Fitzgerald said probation officers tried to reach Baker from June 22 to Aug. 16, after she was released from Four Winds, but that she ignored their calls while making efforts to regain her state dental license. He accused Baker of trying to thwart the justice system.

Prosecutors accused Baker of running a two-year scam in which she sent phony bills to MetLife and created phony patient medical records and sent copies to the insurance firm, starting in September 2006. Eighteen patients came forward in 2008 to say Baker had billed MetLife for dental work she never provided, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, MetLife and the District Attorney’s Office investigated the claims, and Baker was arrested Sept. 23, 2008. After her arrest, prosecutors said, investigators found four patients who said Baker sent their insurance company, MetLife, phony bills between December 2008 and February 2009. She was accused of misleading MetLife and trying to prevent patients from reporting her. She was rearrested in April 2009.

Baker, whose office is at 1 Bryant Crescent, agreed to pay $8,900 in restitution to Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and forfeit $50,000 worth of assets in what is known as a stipulation of settlement, according to the county District Attorney’s Office.

Rebecca Baker

Rebecca Baker joined The Journal News in March 2004. She covers Eastchester, Bronxville and Tuckahoe, and was previously the state and county courts reporter in Westchester County. In prior jobs, she covered the Town of Greenburgh and Rockland County government and politics. Before coming to The Journal News, she was a municipal reporter for newspapers in New Haven, Conn. and Warren, Ohio.