CANAJOHARIE — A local dentist was arrested this week, as authorities investigate reports of insurance fraud and other alleged crimes.
Martin A. Sorbero, 62, of Hagaman, was charged with second-degree forgery, third-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records. He was arraigned in Canajoharie Village Court and was sent to the Montgomery County Jail on $50,000 cash bail. A jail official said Tuesday afternoon that Sorbero made bail and was released.
Police said that, after forging an insurance claim application to a company called Care Credit, Sorbero submitted the document and was paid $11,000 for dental work that was never done. Numerous other victims have been identified, state police said, including a deceased woman. Search warrants were executed at Sorbero’s office on Montgomery Street in Canajoharie and at his home in Hagaman. Police said more charges are expected.
A message left at a number listed as belonging to Sorbero was not returned Tuesday.
Canajoharie Police Chief Bryan MacFadden said the investigation was initially under the purview of his department, but the scope of the probe has expanded, and he has asked the state police to get involved.
“We need state police resources because of the number of people involved,” said MacFadden, adding his department has received numerous reports of Sorbero billing for work he never performed. “It started with one and now there’s many; I can’t give you a number yet.
“As people are contacting us it’s being added to the file.”
State Police Spokesman Trooper Mark Cepiel confirmed several people have come forward with allegations against Sorbero.
“I will say that additional charges are expected, and we were asked by the [Canajoharie Police Department] to get involved, but that’s not unusual for us,” said Cepiel. “It’s not as if we took over; we’re still working in conjunction with them.”
Cepiel said state police are able to put investigators on the case to follow up on leads and interview witnesses.
“Many hands make light work,” Cepiel said.
In New York, the state Education Department handles licensing for dentists. A department spokeswoman said she could not comment on individual cases, but in situations like this, the case must work its way through the court system before it is investigated and prosecuted by the department’s Office of Professional Discipline.
“If an arrest results in a conviction, the case will be prosecuted as a direct referral to the Regents Review Committee,” she said.
That committee ultimately makes decisions on the whether convicted individuals can keep their licenses, she said.
Village of Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery said he doesn’t know Sorbero personally but has heard good things about his work.
“This is a very unfortunate occurrence; he’s always had a reputation as a good, quality dentist, and it will be a loss to our community if he’s convicted,” said Avery.
Sorbero is the target of at least two lawsuits alleging he performed dental work that was not medically necessary.
Delmar-based attorney Lee Greenstein, who specializes in personal injury law, filed a suit last May that accused Sorbero of performing six root canals on his client, Kathie Ryan, that were not medically needed.
The suit further alleges Sorbero recommended Ryan get lumineers installed to treat a case of receding gums, a procedure to which Ryan agreed. One month later, Sorbero recommended Ryan “have a bridge implanted in order to keep some of the teeth tight after his unnecessary root canals.”
The filing goes on to say that, “all of the above mentioned procedures performed by [Sorbero] were treatment that was unnecessary, unwarranted and not medically indicated.”
The suit states that Ryan agreed to Sorbero’s recommendations based on his credentials as a licensed dentist, and as a result of the unnecessary work, she suffered serious injuries, pain and suffering, medical expenses and required further dental treatment that would not have been necessary if not for Sorbero’s actions.
The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court, Montgomery County, accuses Sorbero of negligence, malpractice, and “deviations from accepted standards of care.” The filing calls for Sorbero to pay punitive damages to Ryan as well as attorney’s fees.
Contacted Tuesday, Greenstein said he filed a similar case against Sorbero on behalf of another client who read about Ryan’s case and allegedly had a similar experience with the dentist. Greenstein said Sorbero’s arrest on fraud-related charges came as a surprise to him, but it should not impact his clients’ cases.
“I don’t know anything about it other than it’s different conduct,” he said. “I have no reason to believe it involves either of my clients, so I don’t think it will change anything for them.”
Greenstein added that both his cases are in discovery, and Ryan’s case is set for a trial to begin Nov. 12.