Former assistant for embattled dentist arrested

Dr. Howard S. Schneider charged with 11 counts of Medicaid fraud

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A former dental assistant for embattled pediatric dentist Dr. Howard S. Schneider has been arrested on charges of fraud and child abuse.

Schneider, who faced allegations of mistreatment of pediatric patients, turned himself in to police Monday afternoon, charged with 11 counts of Medicaid fraud.

According to jail records, Schneider, 78, was booked into the Duval County jail shortly before 4 p.m. Monday on 11 counts of unauthorized Medicaid claims.

The state attorney general's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office also had a warrant out for the arrest of LaTosha Bevel-Hillsman (pictured) on charges of practicing dentistry without a license, defrauding the Florida Medicaid program and child abuse. Hillsman turned herself in and was booked into the Duval County jail just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Hillsman, 39, allegedly performed an extraction on a pediatric patient, a procedure that Hillsman is not authorized to perform. The investigation revealed that the procedure harmed the child and produced unauthorized claims submitted to the Medicaid program for reimbursement, officials said.

Hillsman, who bonded out of jail Tuesday night, could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

"Essentially, there's been a pattern and practice that we've seen at Dr. Schneider's facilities that we've seen dental assistants and dental hygienists going too far," said John Phillips, who is representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Schneider. "They can't actually practice dentistry. They can't pull teeth. They can't do procedures."

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Howard S. Schneider

Last summer, News4Jax captured video of Hillsman shielding Schneider from an angry protester outside his dental practice in Arlington.

Schneider, who now lives in Georgia, bonded out of jail around 9 p.m. Monday on a $110,000 bond and was released.

The 11 counts against Schneider say he performed procedures on children without parental consent. They also say he fell below the standard of care for his young patients and submitted unauthorized claims for Medicaid reimbursement.

Schneider's court date is Dec. 8.

News4Jax tried to contact Hillsman, Schneider and Schneider's attorney, but they have not responded to requests for comment.

News4Jax also obtained a court document that said Schneider cannot afford to pay his attorney's fees for the case involving the new Medicaid fraud charges.

He filed a motion for temporary support to pay his attorney's fees. 

DOCUMENTS: Howard Schneider arrest warrant affidavit |
Howard Schneider's expedited motion

The motion said the matter is an emergency because Schneider will be incarcerated until he can make bond.

Since April, hundreds of parents have claimed that Schneider (pictured) abused their children as they sat in his dentist's chair. They also claim that he performed unnecessary dental procedures for the purpose of ripping off Medicaid.

Earlier this year, News4Jax reviewed state records and found that Schneider received $3.9 million in Medicaid reimbursements over the past five years.

According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, Schneider's fee-for-service reimbursements in both 2012 and 2013 were over $1 million.

DOCUMENT: 5-year Medicaid payments to Dr. Howard Schneider

Schneider eventually closed his Arlington office and relinquished his license to practice in both Florida and Georgia. 

Phillips, who represents dozens of Schneider's former patients in a class-action lawsuit, is focused more on malpractice claims, but was expecting the state to file criminal charges over his misuse of Medicaid.

"We haven't seen the particular allegations, but we know of at least one incident where not only was Medicaid charged, but somebody's credit card was charged for the same procedure," Phillips said.

Brandi Motley, one of Phillips' clients who claims that her daughter was abused by Schneider, was with Phillips when she got the news and said she was pleased that he had been arrested.

"(I'm) definitely excited. (I) can't really express how exactly I felt about it. Excited is all I can say. Justice was served. (We're) definitely in the right area we're headed and need to be," Motley said. "This is definitely the justice I've wanted since day one, so definitely overwhelming with that. (My daughter has) come a long ways with it all. We're getting there day by day."

Even with the charges and arrest, Motley said it doesn't fix what's been done and victims like her daughter are going through much more.

"It's affected us big time, from the whole situation of her not trusting male figures, including her father, the PTSD, nightmares at night, pain in her mouth, trusting her new dentist and (orthodontist), it's affected her a lot. Her speech in school and at home, her eating habits in every way possible," Motley said.  

Rhonda Peoples-Waters, a local attorney not affiliated with the case, said that after his arrest, Schneider's defense team has some difficult challenges ahead.

"I expect the state has gathered a good amount of evidence to establish that these persons were billed for services through the Medicaid program that they actually didn't receive," Peoples-Waters said.

Peoples-Waters said the state is likely ready to present patients who did not receive proper dental care just by looking at their dental records over the years.

Schneider's 11 counts of Medicaid fraud each carries a punishment of up to five years in jail, but that time could mount if all the counts are grouped together.

"If you combine them together, then the penalty would be greater because you would have an amount alleged over $10,000. So those could even be second-degree felonies or more serious penalties," Peoples-Waters said.  

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.