Here is another in our continuing series of articles about things going on around Rochester.
There is no such thing as a cheap dental procedure. Take dental implants, for example, a missing tooth remedy used by approximately three million Americans. For a single implant, it can cost patients anywhere from $1,500 to $7,500.
The eight plumbers accused of scamming the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 267 union through dental reimbursements were banking on these high costs of dental care to receive over $65,000. These men received thousands of dollars in reimbursements from the Syracuse-based union after submitting nearly 30 false dental claims. They are now facing federal charges.
The men involved include Paul Harnas Jr. and Gregory Haller of Elmira Heights; Brandon Wilson of Corning; Cory Bennett of Horseheads; Eric Field and Jamie Davenport of Elmira; and Jared Stevens and Chris Beach of Ithaca, according to the Star Gazette. Everyone involved is either a current member of the union or a former member.
Harnas, a patient of Lodico Dental Associates in Elmira, obtained receipts from the dental office and then altered them to account for fake, expensive dental treatments. He then sold the fraudulent receipts, totaling more than $65,000 in dental work, to the seven other men at a rate of $100 per receipt. The plumbers then submitted these receipts to the union’s reimbursement fund between June 2011 and April 2013 in hopes of getting the money back for their false claims.
Harnas was arrested on Tuesday, October 28 and had his first court appearance in the U.S. District Court of Rochester shortly after. He is scheduled to return to court today.
The other men were not arrested, but they have all received summons to appear in court today, as well. If found guilty, they could face fines up to $250,000 each or even a five-year prison sentence.
The Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 267 union has an insurance fund for members that provides health benefits to both employees and their dependents. They also added a union-funded reimbursement fund in 2007 that allows members to receive reimbursements for certain out-of-pocket medical expenses. In order to be reimbursed, members must submit a medical reimbursement form along with proof of the services.