The dentist who extracted $50,000 of taxpayer money for made-up appointments that included tooth-pulling has escaped a jail sentence.
Sanjay Govind Sathe will spend the next eight months on home detention at his home in Hillcrest, Auckland, after being sentenced at the Manukau District Court for 18 criminal charges, including false accounting and dishonestly using a document.
A Ministry of Health investigation found 172 claims over four years for emergency treatment of children and teenagers - including the extraction of teeth - that did not occur.
Court documents show the total amount Sathe fraudulently obtained was $49,274, which he has since repaid. He paid a further $45,000 in civil liabilities which included a contribution to the cost of the investigation.
Sathe was contracted to the Counties Manukau District Health Board to provide after-hours emergency treatment for children and teenagers.
The free scheme contracts 734 dental providers throughout New Zealand. They treated about 188,000 adolescents last year at a cost of $42 million.
Under the agreement, Sathe would provide treatment, then submit invoices to claim tax-funded payments. The national average number of "emergency consultations" was between 29 and 38 a year. Sathe made between 352 and 679 claims each year - the most of any dentist in the country.
The 59-year-old sat in the dock today, cradling his arm which was heavily bandaged.
Judge Gerard Winter read from a victim impact statement from the health board that said the system relies on the honesty of health professionals and Sathe's offending was a breach of trust.
The board said Sathe had damaged its reputation and undone years of work to build up trust.
"Dr Sathe's offending has left a mess."
Authorities said they were still tracking down the parents of some children Sathe claimed to have worked on and the whole exercise has been a waste of resources.
Judge Winter said some of Sathe's records showed multiple extractions when none were carried out.
"Yes there has been money lost but by far, in a way, the greatest loss is the damage you've done to your profession and the children in our community."
Sathe's lawyer Harry Waalkens QC reminded the court that his client had repaid the lost money and made a contribution to the investigation cost.
He said Sathe had suffered a "fall from grace" and was sorry for what he had done. He said his client had health issues and had just undergone surgery for osteoporosis.
Mr Waalkens also said there was no evidence of "actual harm" to patients.
In sentencing, Judge Winter said he found Sathe's offending included a degree of premeditation.
He started his sentencing with a two-year prison sentence but gave Sathe credit for his early guilty plea, previous good record, reparation payments and age.
The Ministry of Health was not immediately available for comment.
Sathe will now be referred to the Dental Council who will then consider a referral to disciplinary proceedings.
He no longer holds a practising certificate.
- additional reporting, Jared Savage