Anchorage ‘hoverboard dentist’ sentenced in Medicaid fraud scheme
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An Anchorage dentist convicted of Medicaid fraud and endangering his patients received his sentence Monday in a case prosecutors say is unlike any other.
A 25-second video shows Dr. Seth Lookhart floating into an exam room. He appears to remove a tooth from a sedated patient, then pivots and rides away on a hoverboard, tossing his gloves in the air, removing his mask and flashing a smile at the camera.
The video, which appears to have been shot on a cell phone, was just a shred of the evidence presented in the 35-year-old dentist’s weeks-long trial.
On Jan. 17, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton found Seth Lookhart, 35, guilty on 46 counts in a Medicaid fraud scheme. He and his former office manager, Shauna Cranford, were accused of pushing patients to undergo intravenous sedation needlessly in order to bill Medicaid for the service.
Monday, Wolverton sentenced Lookhart to serve 20 years with eight suspended, leaving 12 years of active time.
While the state is pushing for the court to order Lookhart to pay more than $2 million in restitution, Eric Senta with the Office of Special Prosecutions stressed that the case did not merely represent a financial crime.
Evidence presented at trial showed patients were left unattended while sedated, had breathing and heart complications and, in some cases, nearly died. Patients also testified they woke up to discover Lookhart worked on or removed the wrong teeth or strayed from the treatment plan they had signed off on.
“This is not an economic crime,” Senta said. “This is not a case where the court is sentencing someone who stole $2 million. Lookhart hurt people, vulnerable people, disabled children. Lookhart harvested organs, almost ended people’s lives. These are human beings that he targeted.”
Defense Attorney Kevin Fitzgerald, who represented Lookhart at the sentencing, pointed to Lookhart’s good behavior while out on bail before and after trial and noted that he has already suffered consequences as a result of his actions.
“He’s lost a business, this court is well aware there are civil suits, there’s been negative publicity and the likely loss of his license, which, again, is pending, but the state’s position is to revoke it permanently,” Fitzgerald said.
Lookhart chose to read a prepared statement.
“Looking back, I can’t say exactly when I began to go off course,” he said, later continuing, “While I do not doubt that I was able to render care and alleviate the pain to many people who were in dire need, I also know that I could have and should have maintained better discipline and focus while serving a patient base I came to love.”
He went on to apologize, said he had been through a “transformative process,” and is a changed man.
“I know I would be my best self and in turn able to serve my family and the community best if I were granted the privilege and the hope of a renewed lease on life practicing dentistry and living among those that I love,” he said.
Wolverton said he received 46 letters on Lookhart’s behalf, a large show of support he does not remember in any other case. The letters were from Lookhart’s friends, family and members of a religious organization.
“Despite its title, this is not a hoverboard case and it never has been,” Wolverton said Monday, as he began his comments at sentencing. “The hoverboard portion wasn’t the icing on the cake and it wasn’t even the cherry on top of the icing.”
Wolverton said he was particularly struck by the pages and pages of text messages in which Lookhart bragged to his friends about his crimes in excruciating detail.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, not ever,” Wolverton said of the text messages.
Wolverton said he suspects the case will likely be used to teach students in ethics classes across the country in the future.
Lookhart was granted a delayed remand. He is set to start serving his sentence on Dec. 7, 2020.
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