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Mason City dental office manger sentenced to 41 months in federal prison after stealing nearly $500,000 from her employer

This news story was published on April 14, 2017.
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CEDAR RAPIDS – A former office manager of a small dental practice in Mason City, Iowa, who stole nearly $500,000 from her employer over the course of almost a decade, was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Pamela Harris, age 58, from Mason City, Iowa, was convicted of Wire Fraud. In a plea agreement, Harris admitted she was a trusted employee of the dental practice for approximately 21 years, from about 1993 until 2014. During this time, she had sole responsibility for the practice’s day-to-day finances. She was fired in 2014 after her fraud was discovered.

The two dentists that formed the practice authorized the creation of rubber stamps bearing their signatures to pay for legitimate expenses. However, the dentists always required Harris to obtain authorization before using the rubber stamps on a check to pay a bill. At no time did the dentists authorize Harris to create checks and use their rubber signature stamps to pay for her personal expenses without their knowledge.

From at least July 2005, and continuing through about May 2014, Harris defrauded the dentists and their practice. Harris used the rubber signature stamps of the dentists without their authorization to create forged checks drawn on the practice’s bank account. Harris forged checks made payable either to herself or to others, including credit card companies to pay for Harris’ personal expenses. Harris also maintained and used various credit card accounts she had opened in the name of the dental practice to pay for personal expenses without the authorization of the dentists.

For example, Harris admitted that, in May 2012, she forged a check bearing the signatures of the dentists to pay for a $4,000 white plastic fence at her home. In total, Harris admitted to stealing at least $491,254.86 from the dentists and their practice.

Harris was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Reade found Harris’s crime was “a very serious offense” and stressed a number of aggravating factors, including that Harris’s scheme was sophisticated and caused the dentists such a substantial financial hardship that they needed to take out lines of credit. Judge Reade found defendant had “spit in the eye” of her employers. During the hearing, Judge Reade also noted that Harris, through a civil attorney, had offered to repay approximately $100,000 of the stolen money, but only if the dentists would give Harris a good letter of recommendation for another job. The evidence at the hearing showed that the civil attorney wrote a letter stating, “this probably sounds outrageous to ask for a letter but if your client’s [sic] want more money, I think this is the only way.” The dentists declined the offer.

Harris was sentenced to 41 months’ imprisonment. A special assessment of $100 was imposed, and she was ordered to make $491,254.86 in restitution to the dentists. With respect to restitution, Harris will be given credit for approximately $150,000 that she deposited with the Clerk of Court before the conclusion of her sentencing hearing. She must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

Harris was released on the bond previously set and is to surrender to the United States Marshal on May 8, 2017, at 10 a.m., in Cedar Rapids, pending her designation to a Bureau of Prisons facility.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tim Vavricek and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Mason City Police Department.

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9 Responses to Mason City dental office manger sentenced to 41 months in federal prison after stealing nearly $500,000 from her employer

  1. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 15, 2017 at 8:01 am

    WTF. If my check book is off $50 Id notice.

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 15, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Sound like everyday business in District of Crooks = DC

  3. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 15, 2017 at 2:36 am

    in 12 yrs that’s approx. $41,000 a yr, no wonder my dental visits are so expensive, if they didn’t miss that much each yr for 12 yrs they have way to much money

  4. Avatar

    Trumpster Reply Report comment

    April 14, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    This is unbelieveable. Two dentists learned a big lesson here also.

  5. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 14, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    I agree how could this woman get away with this for so many years?where are the checks and balances?

  6. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 14, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Are you telling me that they did not have an accountant for their dental practice and how in the heck did this go on for a decade undetected? Did they not have a clue of what their business was bringing in? Shame on them too for not taking responsibility to know their own business. Just like the people at Titan Pro in Clear Lake, how can people running a business be so ignorant of what is going on? Where did these people go to business school or who have they hired for accountants? WOW – TRUELY UNBELIEVABLE!

    • Avatar

      Katie Reply Report comment

      April 15, 2017 at 12:23 am

      Medical professionals don’t get business training. That is the problem. They get training in ethics and the legalities of their professions, but they couldn’t run a lemonade stand profitably.

  7. Avatar

    Anon Reply Report comment

    April 14, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Now this is newsworthy. A simple possession of marijuana (forest city story) isn’t. Sad NIT thinks they’re the same

  8. Avatar

    Katie Reply Report comment

    April 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    What a horrible person. The dentists should own everything she has.