JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Florida dentist is accused of harming the most vulnerable of patients, young children. Meanwhile, he is accused of collecting millions of dollars in Medicaid payments for procedures that his patients didn’t need or want, according to CNN.
Editor’s note: Details in this story may be disturbing to some viewers.
Going to the dentist can be a terrifying experience for children, but some parents say they were horrified when they found out what happened to their kids at the hands of 78-year-old Howard Schneider.
For the past three weeks, there have been protests outside his Jacksonville practice. One patient was so angry that she was seen attacking him outside his office. However, Dr. Schneider says he has done nothing wrong.
The firestorm started after Brandi Motley wrote about the day she took her six-year-old daughter, Briel, to the dentist to have one tooth pulled.
On the day of surgery, Motley says she was told that she could not sit with her daughter.
“The nurse suggested that it’s best, that kids act better when parents aren’t in the room. So they said, ‘We don’t like parents back here for the procedures,” said Motley.
Motley said she sat in the waiting room for three hours until the waiting turned to worrying.
“Finally, the nurse came and got me and she said there had been an incident. She was hyperventilating. She had marks all over her, blood all over her,” said Motley.
She was angry and unable to get a clear explanation of what happened, Motley says she and her daughter left and rushed to the emergency room.
“In the parking lot, she takes her gauze out and I notice that all of her teeth were gone,” said Motley.
Motley said Dr. Schneider had pulled not one tooth but seven.
“What happened to all of her teeth?” Motley told WJXT.
According to Motley, Briel says Dr. Schneider hit her and choked her.
Police were called twice and although department records indicate officers responded, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told CNN that “no report was written on this incident.”
“That’s when I decided to put her pictures on my Facebook and tell everybody what happened,” said Motley.
Her story went viral, and other parents started sharing their children’s horror stories.
“I kept reading and reading until the name Dr. Howard and I knew that was the same dentist,” said Amanda Barry.
Amanda Barry is deaf, and her 5-year-old son, Dominic, is blind in one eye. Barry says Dominic was referred to Dr. Schneider for a crown in March. Now, Dominic is part of a civil suit accusing Schneider of assault and battery.
According to the complaint, “two front teeth were removed for unknown reasons.”
The complaint also alleges that Dominic was “terrified and told stories of the dentist choking (him.)”
“I screamed for my mom,” Dominic said.
“That’s what bothers me the most. Because I’m deaf, I can’t hear anything- and to know that my child was calling for me and my name and I couldn’t help him, it makes me feel, like, lousy. It makes me feel lousy. Do you know I’m always here for you?” she asked Dominic.
“Until the dentist appointment, the mean dentist appointment, we were apart. I was feeling, like, sad because I wasn’t with you,” Dominic said.
Briel’s family was part of that same lawsuit, but has since withdrawn and filed a medical malpractice suit.
“Medicaid paid him per tooth. So, can I cap a tooth twice? Yes. Can I then pull it? Yes. Can I then successfully obtain benefits for all three? Absolutely,” said Gust Sarris, an attorney.
State records show that Schneider has received nearly $4 million in Medicaid reimbursements in the last five years.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office has launched a criminal Medicaid fraud investigation and is looking into claims that stretch back for decades.
A 1995 malpractice suit was settled out of court, claiming Dr. Schneider unnecessarily placed 16 crowns in the mouth of a 3-year-old.
The boy’s family was paid $7,500 as part of the settlement agreement.
A second malpractice suit was filed that year, but the documents from that case have been destroyed and the outcome is unclear.
“Somebody who is performing procedures that children don’t need, pulling teeth that he knows should be in the child’s mouth. In some cases, we even have where many procedures were done, except what they came in for,” said Sarris.
Sarris filed a potential class action suit against Schneider, claiming “patterns of abuse of his child patients.”
It’s an accusation that CNN reported has been made in the past.
According to a 2013 police report, the mother of a 5-year-old patient was allowed to sit with her daughter. She told officers that Schneider “grabbed her daughter’s face” and “slapped her face several times.”
However, the doctor denied those accusations and was not arrested.
Despite the investigation, Dr. Schneider is free to practice and his license is clear.
“To go to jail, to never work on any other kids, to shut his doors so he can never do this again,” said Barry.