Convicted White Plains dentist gives up license after 7 month fight

After a bitter seven-month battle, Dr. Joanne Baker (left) quietly signed away her state dental license today and returned to jail for scamming her insurance company over three years.

Baker, whose appearances in Westchester County Court have leaned toward the dramatic, surrendered her license as a condition of her probation. County Judge Barbara Zambelli sentenced her on Nov. 16 to five years’ “shock” probation with the first six months spent at the county jail.

On Tuesday, Zambelli said Baker could reapply for her license if she successfully completes her probation sentence. If she does not, the revocation would be permanent.

Baker asked the judge if she would be able to complete her probation sentence in three years, noting that she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Zambelli told her not to get her hopes up about an early discharge, noting that her education had nothing to do with the situation.

“This is driven by how well you do on probation,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you’re not smart.”

Baker, a 51-year-old Scarsdale resident, pleaded guilty in May to third-degree grand larceny and insurance fraud. Prosecutors said she ran a scam in which she sent phony bills to Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and created phony patient records from 2006 to 2009.

Baker had stopped the paperwork to revoke her dental licence and changed lawyers several times, causing delays in the case. She was sent to jail in September after refusing to meet with the county Probation Department for a pre-sentencing report, mandatory for all defendants upon conviction. She had been free on $10,000 bail before that.

She has repaid MetLife $8,920 and paid an additional $50,000 in what is known as a “stipulation of settlement.”

An interesting side note: the assistant district attorney in the Baker case, Brian Fitzgerald, also prosecuted another White Plains dentist – “parking rage” defendant Dr. William Moody, whose 2007 videotaped assault of a Buchanan woman became an Internet sensation. Feel free to add your own bad puns about Fitzgerald taking a bite out of crime.

White Plains dentist-scammer violates plea deal

Dr. Joanne Baker (left) is refusing to give up her state dental license, despite her agreeing to do so when she pleaded guilty to theft and fraud charges in May.

The reversal has sent her plea deal into a tailspin and prompted a judge to keep her in jail until the matter is resolved.

Baker was scheduled for sentencing today on felony charges of third-degree grand larceny and insurance fraud. She is now due back in court on Nov. 16.

In court today, Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli ordered defense lawyer Peter Tilem and Assistant District Attorney Gwen Galef, chief of the economic crimes bureau, to write legal briefs on the consequences of backing out of a negotiated plea.

Zambelli had sent Baker to jail in September after she refused to meet with the county Department of Probati0n for a presentencing report, mandatory for all defendants upon conviction. She had been free on $10,000 bail before that.

Baker, a 51-year-old Scarsdale resident, had agreed to serve five years’ probation with 24 weekends in jail. She changed lawyers and tried withdrawing her guilty plea, but Zambelli denied her request.

Baker’s new attorney, Peter Tilem, said his client had signed a statement agreeing to give up her license, then later hired another lawyer to withdraw the paperwork. Tilem said Baker would accept suspension of her license while on probation but wants someday to practice dentistry again.

“She does not want to forfeit her license,” he said. “It’s something she worked very hard for.”

Baker was accused of running a two-year scam from her office at 1 Bryant Crescent in which she sent phony bills to Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and created phony patient records, then sent copies to the insurance firm, starting in September 2006.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, 18 patients came forward in 2008 to say Baker had billed MetLife for dental work she never provided. Baker was arrested Sept. 23, 2008.

After her arrest, prosecutors said, investigators found four additional 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.

At her court appearance today, she turned over a check made out to MetLife for $8,920 as well as a $50,000 check in what is known as a stipulation of settlement. She is being held without bail at the Westchester County jail in Valhalla.

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.