Dentist charged with £1.8 million fraud
A PETERHEAD dentist appeared in court last week charged with faking his own death so his wife and her sister could claim £1.8m in life insurance.
Emmanouil Parisis changed his name to Neil McClaren and moved his family from Barnstaple in England to Peterhead, prosecutors allege.
They say McClaren's family faked travel documents and his death certificate to make it appear he had died suddenly while on a trip to Jordan, where he has family.
A Devon & Cornwall Police investigation was launched after complaints from the NHS and other organisations about financial irregularities.
Last Tuesday officers from the serious crimes unit arrested 46-year-old McClaren and his 41-year-old sister-in-law, Nikoletta Theodoropoulou, at his new home in Peterhead's Fair Isle Crescent.
At the same time officers were sent to his home in Fallow Fields, Newport, just outside Barnstaple, where 40-year-old Stiliani Theodoropoulou, Mr McClaren's wife, was arrested.
Mr McClaren joined the Queen Street Dental Centre two months ago, after moving to the area with his children and sister-in-law.
His boss and principle surgeon at the practice, Mark Donaldson, told the Buchan Observer he was shocked by the allegations.
He said: "When he failed to turn up to work last Tuesday we found it very unusual, so after trying to reach him on his home phone and mobile we sent a member of staff to his house to make sure everything was okay.
"While she was on the way, the police were on their way to the practice. We found out he had been arrested on charges of fraud. We felt completely hoodwinked by the whole thing - even the references he gave us were fake. He managed to get past NHS Grampian and the General Dental Council."
Mr Donaldson said that Mr McClaren had been a good dentist and that staff and patients had all got on well with him.
He added: "From a practice point of view we are thankful for that - I am very grateful he was arrested on a non-dentist matter and patients should be reassured that their treatment was not affected in any way."
Last Thursday the three Greek nationals appeared in Exeter Magistrates' Court, each facing five charges under the Fraud Act.
Mr McClaren, who worked under his former name at the St John's Dental Centre, Barnstaple, looked attentive in a blue shirt and dark jumper as he listened to proceedings, which were translated for his sister-in-law, who appeared distressed and on the verge of tears.
Prosecutor Ann Hampshire told the court that investigations were still in their early stages but it appeared a massive and complex fraud had taken place.
"There are substantial inquiries still to be undertaken," she said.
"In terms of the allegation, to put it simply the crown says these three defendants committed fraud, the plan being that Mr McClaren faked his own death and then simply assumed a fresh identity, moving to Scotland at the same time, then the family took up claims on insurance policies, the total value final claim value being 1.8m."
Mrs Hampshire said his death certificate had been issued in Jordan last year and certified in Greece. She said though all the family were Greek nationals Mr McClaren took up British citizenship last year.
A number of documents have been seized by police and are undergoing examination, she told the court.
Among these were passports in different names and a photo ID with Nikoletta's name and Stiliani's picture.
She said Mr McClaren, who has four children aged from five to 16, had taken up British citizenship last year.
He and his wife had run up considerable debts and had a mortgage of 220,000 on their Barnstaple home, she said.
Neither Mr McClaren nor his sister-in-law applied for bail but it was requested for Stiliani Theodoropoulou, who seemed calm but tired during the proceedings and was wearing a black Mini Mouse dress.
Magistrates refused the request and committed the case to Exeter Crown Court, where a preliminary hearing will take place on Friday, July 9.
David Battaliou, representing Nikoletta Theodoropoulou, indicated that his client would deny the charges.
A former patient at the Queen Street Dentist Surgery, who did not wished to be named, said she was shocked and angered by the revelations.
She said: "I think its absolutely disgraceful.
"The amount of money I have spent on NHS services and you find out some professional has allegedly been embezzling money to his own advantage.
"I thought that people working in the medical services would be vetted. What I want to know is how did he manage to slip under the radar?"