Dentist Accused of Harming Child Patients While Making Millions of Dollars

Parents say Dr. Schneider extracted healthy baby teeth from their children.

ByABC News
September 23, 2016, 4:29 PM

— -- Dr. Howard Schneider has worked for years as a pediatric dentist, catering to children of low-income parents on Medicaid.

But Schneider's reputation is now clouded over claims that many of those same kids were harmed in his clinic. More than 100 families have accused the Jacksonville, Florida, dentist of harming their children and making millions of dollars while wrecking their mouths. Parents say Schneider extracted healthy baby teeth from their children.

In 2014, Brandi Motley brought in her daughter Bri-el, then 6 years old, for an appointment with Schneider.

Motley said Schneider told her that he needed to extract one of Bri-el's baby teeth. After waiting three hours in the lobby, Motley said a nurse assistant came to get her.

"She said, 'There's been an accident.' That's when I see the blood,” Motley recalled. “Blood on the floor and everything. She [Bri-el] was hyperventilating…and she was face-first on the floor.”

Motley said Bri-el had scratches, bruises and a mouthful of bloody gauze, and her daughter told her a different story of what happened in the dentist chair.

"She says, 'Mommy, they're lying to you ... he was choking me while he was pulling my teeth,'" said Motley.

And when Bri-el took her gauze out, Motley saw that Schneider had taken out all eight of her front teeth even though Motley said her daughter was scheduled to go in for only one extraction.

Motley wanted to sue Dr. Schneider -- but the attorney she called, John Phillips, didn’t take the case. “It’s the worse he-said-she-said you'd ever want to be part of," he said.

So Motley turned her mini-van into a rolling billboard attack on Schneider, and in April of last year, she posted her grievances and photos of Bri-el after the procedure on Facebook. The post was shared over 350,000 times.

Realizing she was not alone, Motley and several other moms who said their children had similar experiences to Bri-el began protesting with signs outside of Schneider's clinic every day.

ABC News met with some of Schneider's alleged victims.

"He [doesn't] care about people. He definitely [doesn't] care about innocent children who can't even defend themselves," Sherraine Christopher told ABC News.

Christopher said that when Zion, then 3 years old, began screaming during his treatment, she pulled out her cellphone and recorded what was happening.

Zion was hysterical while Schneider continued grinding down the first of 16 teeth that he would eventually fit with metal crowns. Christopher said she never received an explanation for the 16 caps in Zion's teeth.

Some dentists, who perform the same procedure as Zion's on other children, argue that it can prevent serious problems, especially among some poorer kids who eat more sugar and brush less.

Christopher shared the video she recorded of Zion at the clinic -- and it went viral.

Seeing the video, John Phillips, the attorney who was initially reluctant to take on Motley's case, eventually took on 131 individual cases of families against Schneider.

After weeks of protests, Schneider closed his clinic and voluntarily surrendered his license to practice dentistry, allowing him to avoid a full dental board investigation.

In November 2015, the state attorney general arrested Schneider and charged him with 11 counts of Medicaid provider fraud. Schneider pleaded not guilty. In only five years, Schneider had collected nearly $4 million in payments from the government program.

Schneider still faces a possible criminal trial on the Medicaid fraud charges. He will be back in court in November for a hearing on a defense motion to avoid a trial by having him declared mentally incompetent.

Meanwhile, he has settled 104 of Phillips’ total 131 lawsuits, including those brought by the families of Zion and Bri-el, without any admission of wrongdoing.

"I think he's just an old, greedy, selfish man," Motley told ABC News.

Schneider maintains the allegations against him are false and that giving up his medical practice was in no way an admission of guilt. He insists he used anesthesia and that he was a great dentist, practicing for over 50 years.