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.

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.”

1 morning, 3 sentencings in Westchester courts

Busy day in Westchester County court today. Not only did the defense opened its case in the domestic violence trial of White Plains Mayor Adam Bradley, but three high-profile felons were sentenced for crimes including murder, vehicular manslaughter, grand larceny and insurance fraud.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard Molea carried out a disposition and sent Alejandro Macias Barajas to prison for 22 years in the beating and stabbing death of a Hartsdale man who he claimed made unwanted sexual advances toward him. The victim’s mother was in court and described her heartbreak over losing her only son.

Meanwhile, Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli ordered White Plains dentist Joanne Baker to jail for six months (she’ll get credit for the 10 weeks she’s been there) for bilking MetLife out of nearly $9,000 with phony patient bills. Her pre-sentencing statement was interesting. We’ll learn in two days if she’ll spent a few more months at the county jail or be sent to state prison.

Zambelli also sentenced drunken driver Louis Nardella to serve 2 to 6 years in state prison for a violent crash that killed 29-year-old Amy Taylor of New Rochelle. The victim’s twin sister, Jennifer Taylor, spoke in court and moved family members to tears. Even the prosecutor was choked up. We may be hearing of “Amy’s Law” after this.

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.

Indicted White Plains dentist has Gotti lawyer

UPDATE: BAKER HAS PLEADED GUILTY TO GRAND LARCENY AND INSURANCE FRAUD. CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY.

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