A former patient care coordinator for a Towamencin dental practice likely isn’t smiling as she fights charges she allegedly gave unauthorized dental discounts to a boyfriend and other customers.
Michele K. Olinger, 49, of the 100 block of Susquehanna Avenue, Lansdale, who is accused of bilking nearly $13,000 from North Penn Dental Arts between 2001 and 2011, filed papers in Montgomery County Court asking that theft-related charges be dismissed against her on the grounds that prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence during a March preliminary hearing and that the charges were filed in violation of the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes.
“The commonwealth failed to present any evidence whatsoever that the defendant acted with an intent to deceive or to defraud,” defense lawyer Judith L. Watts wrote in court papers filed May 9.
Watts also argued that prosecutors failed to present any evidence that Olinger lacked authority to use the company’s computer system or exceeded the authority given to her use of the computer system.
Watts claimed the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes expired between 2006 and 2009 and therefore the charges should be dismissed.
Because information contained within the computer records of North Penn Dental Arts form the basis for the charges against Olinger, Watts has asked a judge to order the business to preserve its computer system “and to make said system available for inspection by a third party computer company to be hired by defendant.”
Prosecutor Erik Crocker will have the chance to address Olinger’s requests when a judge schedules a pretrial hearing on the matter. A hearing date has not yet been scheduled.
In the meantime, Olinger remains free on $10,000 unsecured bail while she awaits trial on charges of theft of services, theft by deception, forgery, tampering with records, computer trespass and unlawful use of a computer. If she’s convicted of all the charges at trial, Olinger faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
Olinger has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
An investigation of Olinger began in September 2011 when the co-owner and managing director of the dental business located in the 1500 block of Sumneytown Pike reported the alleged thefts that occurred between March 2001 and June 2011. Olinger began her employment with the company in June 2000, court papers indicate.
“Olinger was a patient care coordinator that had billing responsibilities,” Towamencin Detective John Wittenberger alleged in the criminal complaint.
The business, detectives alleged, had a policy that stated that only spouses and dependent children of employees were provided a 50 percent discount. All other discounts were to be approved by a company co-owner, detectives alleged.
Between March 2001 and June 2011, Olinger “would provide unauthorized discounts to patients” that defrauded the business of $12,922, according to the arrest affidavit. According to patient billing records, “these discounts were given to Olinger’s boyfriend and family members of the boyfriend or Michele Olinger,” Wittenberger alleged in the criminal complaint.
The discounts were not authorized by the co-owners of the business, detectives alleged.
“Olinger would employ different methods of accounting for the discounts. One method was applying the discount directly to the patient’s account, without authorization,” Wittenberger alleged. “Another method was to transfer the patient’s balance to Olinger’s account and then applying the discount.”
A third method, detectives alleged, was to treat any leftover balance after insurance paid on an account as an additional insurance write-off.
“All of these methods required Olinger to access North Penn Dental Arts’ computerized billing records,” wrote Wittenberger, alleging Olinger manipulated computer records so as to fraudulently reconcile the unauthorized discounts and account write-offs.
During the preliminary hearing in March, Laura Ross-Heleniak, identified in police reports as a co-owner and managing director of the business, testified she noticed discrepancies in billing records after Olinger left the office in June 2011.
Olinger allegedly provided unauthorized discounts for services including, fillings, dental cleanings, root canals and whitening, according to testimony.