SHORT HILLS, NJ – The Union County Prosecutor's Office has announced the arrest of Short Hills resident Roben Brookhim for allegedly practicing as an unlicensed dentist and falsely using the name and license number of a dentist who died last year, in order to treat patients. They were assisted by Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the New Providence Police Department.
Brookhim, 54, was arrested on Tuesday at the New Providence Dental Association on Springfield Avenue, where he allegedly practiced under the name of Dr. John Kirkland, Jr., a dentist who died in October 2011. He was charged with the unlicensed practice of dentistry, a third-degree crime; identity theft, a third-degree crime; and healthcare claims fraud, a second-degree crime.
“Individuals who practice dentistry, medicine, or any other healthcare profession without a license, or after their license has been revoked, create a significant danger to the health and safety of those who rely on them for help; and those who commit healthcare claims fraud create unjustified additional costs for insurance companies, the State, and, ultimately, taxpayers,” said Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa.
According to Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow, they started investigating him a few weeks ago when they received an anonymous tip. An undercover officer was sent there and the officer allegedly confirmed that Brookim was practicing without a license.
“I was surprised that somewhere along the line that someone didn’t identify him,” Romankow said.
Brookim allegedly used Kirkland’s name at the New Providence office, as well as at Associated Dental offices in West Orange and Springfield, and a Family Dental Center office in West New York. Kirkland was registered to practice dentistry at all four offices before he died. The exact relationship between both individuals, and the owners of the dental offices, is still under investigation.
While Brookhim was a licensed dentist at one point, the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry, within the Division of Consumer Affairs, temporarily suspended his license in August 1999, following a complaint by the State alleging multiple counts of insurance claims fraud and patient record violations. The Board permanently revoked his license in December 2004 following allegations that, while suspended, Brookhim performed dental treatment and submitted billings to insurance companies under the name of another dentist. His license remains revoked.
Romankow said the Prosecutor's Office believes Brookim has been scamming people for at least six years, but they are still looking into the matter. He added they are attempting to find out when the misconduct began. Romankow also believes the alleged suspect was involved in stealing thousands of dollars in false insurance claims. Consequently, they are also investigating insurance carriers, as well.
“We feel the public should be protected against that sort of conduct,” he said. ”One of the concerns is how he could have received training to be a dentist and they are looking into it.”
Although Kirkland is deceased, his license to practice in New Jersey was still officially active at the time of Brookhim’s arrest, with an expiration date in 2013. Kirkland’s license was last renewed on October 14, 2011 – a day before he died.
Following his arrest, Brookhim was taken to Union County Jail, is being held on $75,000 bail and his passport was revoked.
Since the investigation, the New Providence Dental Association has been closed and the offices in Springfield and West Orange could not be reached for comment.