Dentist gets break in fraud case

Dr. Joanne Baker, (left) who pleaded guilty to theft and fraud charges months ago, may evade going to state prison, even though a judge promised to send her there if she failed to turn in her state dental license.

Two weeks ago, Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli had given Baker 48 hours to relinquish her license or go to prison. Baker refused. But today, Zambelli said she would allow Baker to surrender her license only as a condition of probation. If she successfully completed her five-year probation sentence, she could reapply for a new dental license.

Assistant District Attorney Gwen Galef said she would have to check with the state to see if Baker would give up her right automatically to reapply for a dental license by surrendering it. Both sides will return to court on Dec. 7.

Baker had been sentenced Nov. 16 to five years’ “shock” probation with six months in jail. She will get credit for the 12 weeks she has been at the Valhalla lockup after her bail was revoked.

The 51-year-old Scarsdale resident pleaded guilty in May to third-degree grand larceny and insurance fraud. Prosecutors say she ran 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 from 2006 to 2009.

Baker had been called back into court Tuesday for a “declaration of delinquency” hearing because she had not relinquished her dental license as ordered. Her lawyer, Peter Tilem, asked the judge to send Baker to a mental health care facility, noting she was under psychiatric care earlierr this year.

“She’s not OK,” he said. “She has psychiatric issues that need to be addressed. Let her get some help.”

Zambelli refused to believe that Baker was incompetent, saying she filed at least one court document, a pro se motion, on her own behalf. The judge called Baker stubborn and “extremely difficult.”

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 presentencing report, mandatory for all defendants upon conviction. She’d 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.”

Indicted White Plains dentist has Gotti lawyer


White Plains dentist indicted for fraud will be represented at trial by one of the lawyers who successfully defended alleged Gambino Crime Family leader John Gotti Jr.

Attorney Charles Carnesi, who won acquittals at Gotti’s third and fourth federal trials, was hired by Dr. Joanne Baker to fight insurance fraud charges against her. Jury selection in Baker’s trial started this morning in Westchester County Court.

Baker, a 51-year-old Scarsdale resident, is accused of bilking Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. out of $15,000 from her office at 1 Bryant Crescent and then trying to cover it up. She is alleged to have billed MetLife for dental work that she never performed. Prosecutors say she created phony patient medical records and sent copies to the insurance firm, starting in September 2006.

About 18 patients came forward in 2008 to say Baker had billed MetLife for dental work she never provided. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, the MetLife Auto and Home Fraud Unit and the District Attorney’s Office investigated the claims, and Baker was arrested Sept. 23, 2008.

She has pleaded not guilty to the entite 13-count indictment charging her with grand larceny, insurance fraud, scheme to defraud and falsifying business records, all felonies. She is free on $10,000 bail.

Carnesi and Assistant District Attorney Brian Fitzgerald are expected to give opening statments at the dentist’s felony trial on Thursday, May 20 in front of Judge Barbara Zambelli.

Photo: Joanne Baker