Fla. dentist performed unwanted procedures, allegedly abused kids
(WFSB.COM) JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s a sound no parent likes to hear: a child screaming out of fear and possibly pain from the dentist’s chair.
Going to the dentist is a rite of passage, of sorts, but what’s alleged to have happened at the hands of 78-year-old Dr. Howard Schneider was not.
For the past three weeks, there have been daily protests outside his practice. One parent was so angry, she attacked him outside his office.
Schneider said he’s done nothing wrong.
The firestorm started after Brandi Motley wrote about the day she took to her 6-year-old daughter, Bri’el, to Schneider to have one tooth pulled.
On the day of surgery in December 2014, Motley said she was not allowed to 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,” she said.
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,” Brandi Motley said. “(Bri’el) was hyperventilating. She had marks all over her, blood all over her.”
Angry and unable to get an clear explanation of what had happened, Motley says she and Bri’el left to rush to an emergency room.
“In the parking lot, she takes her gauze out, and I notice that all of her teeth were gone,” Motley said.
She said Schneider pulled seven teeth.
According to her mom, Bri’el said Schneider hit and choked her, so she called police – twice. Although department records indicate officers responded and according to police logs one wrote a report, Jacksonville Sheriff’s office told CNN “no report was written on this incident.”
Initially, no attorney would take her case.
“That’s when I decided to put her pictures on my Facebook and tell everybody what happened,” Motley said.
Her story went viral, and soon, other parents posted their children’s pictures and claims of unwanted procedures and abuse at the hands of Schneider.
“I kept reading and reading until the name Doctor Howard, and I knew that was the same dentist,” Barry said.
Amanda Barry is deaf. Her five-year old son, Dominic, is blind in one eye. Barry says Dominic was referred to Schneider for a crown in March.
The boy is part of a civil suit accusing Schneider of assault and battery.
According to the complaint, “two front teeth were removed for unknown reasons” and 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,” Amanda Barry said. “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.”
Bri’el’s family at one point was part of that same lawsuit but has since withdrawn. They are now pursuing a medical malpractice suit, represented by attorney John Phillips.
Phillips says he also represents dozens of Schneider’s former patients, most of whom rely on Medicaid for health insurance.
“Medicaid paid him per tooth,” attorney Gust Sarris said. “So, can I cap a tooth twice? Yes. Can I then pull it? Yes. Can I then successfully obtain benefits for all three? Absolutely.”
Schneider has made a fortune from Medicaid. State records show Schneider has received nearly $4 million in Medicaid reimbursements in just the last five years.
The Florida Attorney General’s office has launched a criminal Medicaid fraud investigation, and the claims stretch back decades.
A 1995 malpractice suit was settled out of court. It claimed 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. 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 still be in the child’s mouth. In some cases, we even have where many procedures were done, except what they came in for,” Sarris said.
Sarris said he represents Dominic and dozens of Schneider’s former patients. This month, he filed the potential class action suit against Schneider on behalf of these children, claiming “patterns of abuse of his child patients” – an accusation that has been made before.
According to a 2013 police report, the mother of a 5-year-old patient was allowed to sit with daughter during a procedure. The mother told police Schneider grabbed her daughter’s face” and “slapped her face several times.” The officer acknowledged a “small scratch behind the victim’s left ear.”
Schneider denied touching the girl. He was not arrested. Instead, the officer referred the mother to the state attorney’s office. Nurses who were in the room later “denied that anything inappropriate happened.”
Prosecutors decided not to file charges because of an “improbability of conviction at trial.”
CNN made no fewer than five calls to Schneider’s office to arrange an interview. None were returned.
“They’re not correct and that’s it. I want to be left alone, OK?” Schneider said when asked in his practice’s parking lot about the charges.
Despite the calls to police, the malpractice settlements and the fraud investigation, Schneider is still free to practice. His license is clear. According to the Florida Board of Dentistry, he’s not been disciplined by the state.
For these parents, that’s unacceptable. They want Schneider “to go to jail, to never work on any other kids, to shut his doors so he can never do this again.”