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Post date: April 3 2003

Queens Dentist And Unlicensed Partner Admit To Bilking Medicaid And Private Insurer Out Of $600,000

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that a Queens dentist and his partner, who masqueraded as a dentist at their Forest Hills practice, have admitted to conducting a six-year fraud that cost taxpayers, Medicaid recipients, and a private insurance company more than $600,000.

Appearing yesterday in Queens County Supreme Court before Justice James P. Griffin, Dr. Steve Yunatanov and Igor Zlotin pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Unauthorized Practice of a Profession.

As part of their plea agreement, the defendants also admitted that after Zlotin's arrest he continued to practice dentistry on patients, aided and abetted by Dr. Yunatanov, in violation of the conditions set by the Court for bail. False claims were submitted to Aetna U.S. Healthcare by Dr. Yunatanov for these procedures.

Zlotin will also make restitution of $15,350 to eight Medicaid patients who were defrauded into paying cash – ranging from $200 to more than $10,000 – for dental services he illegally performed.

Sentencing was set for August 29, 2003, at which time Dr. Yunatanov and Zlotin will each be sentenced to either six months in jail or a year of weekends in jail and ordered to pay a $500 fine. They will also make restitution of $600,000 to the Medicaid program, and $1,602 to Aetna U.S. Healthcare on or before the date of sentencing.

According to the charges filed in the case, Dr. Yunatanov and Zlotin submitted hundreds of bills between January 1995 and March 2002 that falsely claimed that Dr. Yunatanov had provided dental services to various Medicaid recipients when, in fact, no such services were provided. Moreover, Zlotin, who has never received a dental license, unlawfully performed dental procedures – including root canal, crowns, fillings, and extractions.

Spitzer said, "We have a special responsibility to protect our citizens from exploitation – especially from scam artists who portray themselves as dentists and then operate on unsuspecting patients. Licensing requirements for dentists and other health care professionals are designed to protect the health and safety of the public. By circumventing those protections, such unscrupulous individuals place the safety of the public in jeopardy."

Dr. Yunatanov, 37, of 83-83 118th Street in Kew Gardens, maintains a dental practice at 115-10 Queens Boulevard.

Zlotin, 36, lives at 1735 York Avenue in Manhattan.

Spitzer noted that his office would refer the matter of Dr. Yunatanov to the state Education Department's Office of the Professions for a review of his license.

Special Assistant Attorney General Arlene S. Osterer, of the MFCU's New York City Regional Office, prosecuted the case. Assisting on the investigation was Senior Special Auditor Investigator Sandy Licul and Special Investigator Victor Maldonado.