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Dec. 04--Two former office workers for a Haledon dental practice were arraigned Monday on charges they diverted more than $200,000 in insurance payments into their own private accounts.
Arlene Marchese, 34, of Wayne, and Karen Wright, 42, of Wyckoff, pleaded not guilty before state Superior Court Judge Greta Gooden Brown in Paterson to one count of theft by failure to make proper disposition of property received and one count of forgery.
Gooden Brown set bail at $20,000, with a 10 percent cash option, which must be posted by Friday at 3 p.m. if the defendants are to avoid being brought to the Passaic County Jail. They have been free since they were charged on Sept. 26, when their cases went straight to indictment. The defendants were arraigned Monday because of several disruptions in the court calendar that included superstorm Sandy.
Passaic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jay McCann said outside of court that Wright, hygienist in-charge, and Marchese, office manager, were responsible for overseeing the intake of insurance payments at Belmont Dental Associates. They allegedly manipulated paperwork so that the funds were secretly diverted privately to them from January of 2005 to December of 2011, McCann said.
Dr. Dominick Lembo, the dentist who owns the firm, said outside of court he discovered the forgeries when calling Aetna dental insurance and asking for an insurance check that should have paid to him for dental services rendered to several patients that never posted to the firm's account.
"It was a shock to find such extensive betrayal perpetrated by people I trusted for over 13 years," Lembo said following the arraignment. "They were treated like family by me. In fact we all spent more time together over the years than we spent with our own families."
Both women face as much as five to 10 years in state prison if convicted on the charges. Both are scheduled to return before Gooden Brown for a status conference on Feb. 4.
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