English dentist jailed for €293,000 NHS fraud
A dentist who cheated the NHS out of more than £222,000 (€293k) to fund a fleet of classic cars has been jailed for three years.
Mark Walewski, 68, from Tilford Road, Churt, Surrey, submitted claims for treatments that patients had already paid for privately or that he never carried out, particularly on babies and small children.
Despite an annual income of £150,000, Walewski spent six years swindling money he had not earned from the NHS after a new system of payments was introduced, Guildford Crown Court heard.
Judge Stephen Climie sentenced him to three years in prison for two counts of evasion of a liability by deception and two counts of fraud by abuse of position.
He said: "This is a case which, in my judgment, involved a gross abuse of the position of trust which you enjoyed.
"It is of course no small task to achieve the qualification of becoming a dentist and you did so with the many factors that opposed you.
"Nonetheless the position that you obtained in these circumstances is a privilege and one which carries significant rewards.
"Despite that, for a significant period of time you abused the system that was open to you and as a result the NHS suffered this significant loss."
Walewski "double-claimed" for treatments he had carried out on patients but had already been paid for as private dental work, either by patients or their medical insurance, including one that an insurer had paid £3,000 for, the court heard.
A Lotus sports car found at Walewski's home
He also submitted claims for treatments he never carried out including check-ups on babies and fillings on young children, leaving their dental records incorrect.
One baby was recorded as having been examined despite being only 17 days old, and a four-year-old was recorded as having a filling on a tooth a child of that age was unlikely to have.
Between April 2006 and August 2012, he claimed for 6608 "units of dental activity" - the measure used to work out how much dentists are paid - which totalled just over £432,000 and resulted in a loss to the NHS of £222,703.34.
Prosecutor Kevin Dent told the court: "The investigation revealed that Mr Walewski does appear to be well off and as well as having properties, he owned and maintained a fleet of classic cars."
Although he later pleaded guilty, Walewski first denied any wrongdoing and suggested that a dental nurse could have made the claims by mistake and another member of staff was arrested and interviewed.
His lawyer Jonathan Rees said his client, whose father came to the UK from Poland after serving with British forces in the Second World War, had a son with cerebral palsy and had spent much of his career committed to helping disabled patients access dental care.
Walewski, who sat in the dock in a grey pinstripe suit, pleaded guilty to four counts and was sentenced to three years in prison for one count of fraud and 20 months for another, both between April 4 2007 and August 10 2012.
The judge sentenced him to two years for one count of evasion of a liability and 16 months for another of the same count both covering the period April 1 2006 and March 31 2007, all to be served concurrently.
Liz Wood from NHS Protect, the health service's anti-fraud team, led the investigation and said Walewski compromised his patient's care which could result in mistakes where dental records are used to identify people.
She said: "If something really bad happens, for example a very bad fire, people use teeth for identification purposes.
"There are an awful lot of children here. The parents who gave us statements were not very happy to realise their children could have been used."
The investigation was sparked by an anonymous tip-off, NHS Protect said. Anyone with suspicions about fraud against the NHS can call the Fraud and Corruption Reporting Line on 0800 028 4060 or visit www.reportnhsfraud.nhs.uk
Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, said: "Mr Walewski deliberately stole £223,000 from the NHS - money that should have been used to provide dental care to patients.
"He abused his position of trust so that he could enjoy a lifestyle way beyond that of the average taxpayer.
"Defrauding the NHS is never a victimless crime, and this is reflected in the three-year jail sentence today, which should act as a deterrent to any dentists, or others, who consider defrauding the NHS."