A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge has sentenced Elmer E. Cook, once known as the "singing dentist," to serve eight months' home detention, five years' probation and to pay more than $41,000 in restitution for insurance fraud and felony theft.
But state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., whose office filed the charges, said Cook deserved jail time.
"Eight months of home detention is not much of a deterrent," Curran said, noting that insurance fraud costs Marylanders about $2 billion a year.
Before surrendering his license to state authorities in 1999, Cook had built a $400,000-a-year practice, with offices in Parkville and Perry Hall. He was known for serenading patients with everything from Elton John songs to show tunes while they sat in the dentist chair.
But yesterday, Cook, 53, told Judge Christian M. Kahl that he lost his practice and his family by defrauding patients and forcing them to spend thousands of dollars on corrective treatments.
"I am humbled and extremely sorry to have to put people through this," Cook said. "It was stupid, stupid, stupid."
Under the terms of his home detention, Cook will wear an electronic bracelet and will be allowed to go to work, see his probation officer and attorney, and attend church, said his attorney G. Warren Mix.
In filing the charges, the state attorney general's office alleged that Cook stole more than $41,000 from insurance companies by billing for services he never performed from March 1996 to April 1998.
Cook pleaded guilty in January.
Court papers and state records show that Cook performed substandard work on his patients for years. He surrendered his license in 1999, a year after the State Board of Dental Examiners found "serious deficiencies" when it reviewed Cook's installation of bridgework and crowns and his root canal work.
The charges filed by the state stemmed from Cook's treatment of 26 patients. Dozens of others have filed claims with CNA, the Chicago-based insurance company that issued Cook's malpractice policy. A representative of the company declined to comment yesterday.
Mix asked the judge to spare Cook jail time so that he could begin paying the $41,499 in restitution. Cook recently took a job with Miracle Ear, a manufacturer of hearing aids, Mix said.
"He needs to begin making restitution," Mix said. "I think he has suffered tremendously, and there is no need for incarceration."