A Grafton dentist who intentionally damaged patients’ teeth to aid a fraud scheme was sentenced Friday four and a half years in prison.
Scott Charmoli, 62, told patients they needed crowns, then damaged teeth and took x-rays before the crown procedures, so the work would be covered by insurance. But many patients also paid significant portions of the bills out of pocket as well.
“It was never my intent to harm anyone in any way,” Charmoli said in between tears. “I loved my patients.”
Milwaukee County Judge Lynn Adelman also ordered Charmoli to serve three years of supervised release after his prison term.
He attached more than 1,600 crowns over a 20-month period. An executive with an insurance company testified that, on average, Wisconsin dentists installed fewer than six crowns per 100 patients, but that in 2019, Charmoli’s rate exceeded 32 per 100 patients.
The scheme was revealed after he sold the practice in 2019, and the new owners realized after reviewing files the crown numbers were way out of the ordinary.
Charmoli was indicted in late 2020. After a four-day trial in Milwaukee federal court in March, a jury found him guilty on seven counts — five fraud charges related to four patients, and two charges of making false statements related to two of the same patients.
Charmoli “consigned his patients to potentially life-long consequences including sensitivity and pain, the risk of needing future root canals and implants, and the need for multiple crown replacements in the future,” prosecutors Julie Stewart and Michael Carter wrote in a sentencing memo.
They noted most of the patients never complained of pain or sought the crowns. Instead, Charmoli used “psychological manipulation,” often warning that skipping the recommended crown procedure could result in even greater harm and cost later.
“Defendant did not simply steal over a million dollars, he also abused his patients’ trust and broke their teeth to satisfy his greed,” prosecutors wrote.
“Many of Defendant’s victims have also lost trust in the dental (or medical) profession as a whole,” the memo reads. “Indeed, nearly every victim who has submitted a statement has discussed how they find it difficult to trust their doctors.”
“Every time I went to get my teeth cleaned about every 6 months I dreaded it because I was nervous and anxious that Dr. Charmoli would say I need another crown procedure. Crown procedures are time consuming, painful and expensive,” one former patient wrote.
Elements of violent crime
Charmoli’s attorney suggested some sentence below the guideline range of eight to ten years in prison. The government argued the guidelines failed to account for the violent element of the crime, and should actually have been higher.
“The guidelines in this case, which deal with fraud and are based primarily on loss
amount, ultimately fail to adequately encompass the scope, breadth, and human devastation wrought by Defendant’s conduct,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
The government recommended nine and a half years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
“Until today, (Charmoli has responded with) callous, half-measured platitudes of apology,” Stewart said.
The defendant’s lack of remorse is not particularly surprising considering his testimony at trial. That testimony was replete with falsehoods that has earned him a well-deserved obstruction-of-justice enhancement in this case.
In their sentencing memo, Charmoli’s lawyers describe as a native of Cedarburg and a committed Catholic who helped his ailing parents. It includes testimonials about his generosity, compassion, kindness and professional skills from family, friends, patients and other dentists.
He graduated from Marquette dental school in 1986 and met his wife, a dental hygienist, at a practice in the Boston area. They ran Jackson Dental Clinic — where the offense took place — from 1991 to 2019. They opened a new practice in Hartford after selling the Jackson office.
The defense argued that over several recent years, less than six percent of defendants charged with fraud of $1.5 million or more were sentenced to five years or longer in prison. A long sentence would unnecessary for Charmoli, his lawyers argued, because of his age, lack of record and inability to practice dentistry any more.
Charmoli has already paid a forfeiture of more than $1 million and surrendered his dental license.
Charmoli also faces medical malpractice lawsuits in Washington County, brought by nearly 100 former patients. Those cases have been stayed pending the outcome of the federal prosecution.
Lelah Byron of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this story.
Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.