JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Southside pediatric dentist facing parent accusations of malpractice and claims that he abused children during dental procedures is now also facing a state Medicaid fraud investigation.
Lt. Michael Maloney, with the Florida Attorney General's Office is in Jacksonville, investigating claims of Medicaid fraud by Dr. Howard S. Schneider.
Maloney, who works in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, said he's in town to gather information. He said there's no reason to believe Schneider did anything wrong, but the state is doing a full investigation. Jacksonville police are also looking into the claims of abuse.
Maloney was out for several hours Thursday, questioning parents who were protesting outside Schneider's pediatric dental practice on University Boulevard.
The sidewalk was packed all day Thursday as parents and patients picketed for the third day in a row.
Parents and children outside the office said Schneider was abusive toward them, was rude and cursed at them. Some claim to have permanent damage from his procedures.
"The cap that he put on, I can't even eat on that side now," 10-year-old Joss Whitten said. "Whenever I eat on that side or drink any water it's like swelling up a lot."
Schneider told News4Jax on Wednesday that the complaints are unfounded. He said he follows proper protocol with all his patients, and he's upset people are trying to ruin his name.
"If you are going to treat kids, they are going to bite their lips," he said. "We tell parents, 'Be careful with the lips, because they do this.' That's a common thing in pediatric dentistry."
There are also a lot of people who've known Schneider for a long time who are sticking up for him, saying they've had nothing but good experiences with Schneider.
"It's sad," Nicole Black said. "Some people just take one little thing and take it to far. I think as a community we need to get together and stop blaming people for the simple little things. Of course you're going to have bruises after you get an injection or something like that. This man is not like that."
Another parent, named CeCe, brought her 4-year-old and 5-year-old children to see Schneider Thursday, despite the protests.
"I think he's a good dentist," CeCe said. "I mean, he never did anything wrong to my kids. I drove all the way from St. Augustine to bring my kids here, and they've gone here since last year."
Schneider said Thursday that he's very upset about the allegations and he's hired an attorney to fight them. He called police once Thursday to report the protesters being on his property.
How the uproar started
The mother who started the social media campaign against Schneider (pictured) said she decided to post to Facebook what happened to her child in December. Within a few hours of her post, dozens of parents flooded the News4Jax newsroom with calls and emails about Schneider, whose pediatric dental practice is on University Boulevard.
Brandi Motley claims her daughter went in to get one tooth fixed but ended up with a mouthful of problems.
"She's been going to the dentist since she was 2, and she's never had any teeth problems, no decaying no cavities, and now all of a sudden her whole mouth is messed up because of him," Motley said.
Her Facebook post sparked outrage and a protest outside Schneider's offices. Around lunchtime Wednesday, when Schneider pulled out of the back parking lot, protesters screamed at him and bottles were thrown at his car.
Motley said she never expected so many parents to have similar stories.
"I want his doors locked. It's my goal," Motley said. "It's not about the money. It's not about anything, I'm my child's voice, and I will speak for her, Mason and the other kids that were hurt and that's all I can do."
Motley said she wasn't allowed into the procedure room while Schneider was working on her daughter in December. She said the nurse came into the waiting room three hours later and told her there had been an accident. Motley said the nurse told her to take her child to the emergency room, but she said the story the nurse told her didn't match with the story her daughter told her.
"(My daughter) said the man doctor threw her and the lady doctor picked her back up and they were laughing and sat on her while the lady was slapping her on the face while he was choking her and that's when they pulled her teeth," Motley said.
Five parents at the protest Wednesday told News4Jax their kids were severely mistreated -- either strapped down to boards, forced to endure having teeth pulled that didn't need to be pulled or operated on without sedation. Some even said their kids came out of Schneider's office bloody and bruised.
Motley said she can't say whether any of the other parents' stories are true or not but said if they think their kid was abused, they need to get a lawyer, like she did, and press charges.
Schneider told News4Jax that the allegations of abuse are untrue and that his practice will remain open.
He blames one woman who might have had a bad experience for prompting people to write bad reviews and make accusations. He said every child that has come into his office has had nothing but the best treatment. He said he has been in Jacksonville for nearly 50 years and doesn't deserve the backlash.
News4Jax checked and Schneider's license is clear, and he has no reported actions against his license.
About five people contacted News4Jax reporter Heather Leigh on Wednesday offering support of Schneider. They didn't want to be interviewed but said the dentist is a good person and does good work.
Parent Kellee Davis disagreed. She brought her son to the protest Wednesday to show everyone what she said is the result of Schneider's work.
"He had scratches all across his face. They told me they tried to do the procedure before restraining him, but he was clawing at the dentist. I just chalked it up to, 'He's old, maybe he's getting sloppy with his work,' but how do I know if that's true now with all these allegations?" Davis said. "These two are the fake teeth; the caps they put on. They shaved these front two teeth to put them on. You can see on the two side teeth, they're all yellow and ground down because of the drill. If you look up here at his gumline, you can see the holes and indentions in the gumline where the teeth weren't put up under the gum, they were just stuck there."
She said her son originally went in to have a chipped tooth fixed.
Another parent, Amber Jones, said she brought her son, who has autism, in to get work done, too. She said they left terrified.
"Now when you say the word dentist, when you say the word doctor, he's traumatized," Amber Jones said. "It's one thing with a normal child, but having an autistic child that can't say, 'He hurt me,' or, 'I can't defend myself,' and that's what my son went through because of this man."
Detectives with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office were also out at the protest Wednedsay, taking down contact information for some of the people. JSO said the detectives were gathering information as part of a process to determine if there will be an investigation into the claims of mistreatment and abuse.