An Anchorage dentist is on trial for multiple felony criminal counts of Medicaid fraud and reckless endangerment over his alleged over-use of sedation and — among other allegations — performing dentistry while on a hoverboard.
State prosecutors say Seth Lookhart, 34, unnecessarily sedated patients so he could bill Medicaid for more money. They say Lookhart’s billings amounted to nearly a third of all Medicaid billing for dental sedation in Alaska in 2016 and that Lookhart’s office billed about $2 million in unjustified intravenous sedation that year alone.
A state board suspended Lookhart’s dentistry license in 2017.
One of his patients was Veronica Wilhelm, who testified in court Wednesday that her son had also been a patient. Wilhelm said it had angered her when Lookhart sedated her son for a simple teeth cleaning.
But what happened to Wilhelm herself has drawn the most attention to the case: While Wilhelm was fully sedated, Lookhart extracted one of her teeth while riding on a “hoverboard.” He also videotaped the procedure and joked about what he’d done with someone to whom he sent the video.
Wilhelm testified that she found out when an investigator, who discovered the video while looking into the fraud allegations, showed it to her.
“I was pretty livid. Pretty pissed off,” Wilhelm said.
Today, a prosecutor played the video again for Wilhelm, who was shocked, again, to see herself unconscious in an unauthorized video.
“You can see that thing moving while he’s pulling my tooth out. That’s crazy,” Wilhelm said. “I think you gotta be pretty full of yourself to think that you can pull people’s tooth out on a hoverboard.”
The prosecution rested today, and Lookhart’s attorney, Paul Stockler, began presenting his defense, which initially focused on Medicaid audits and edits to documentation.
Stockler says Lookhart denies the felony fraud allegations, but he admits to some of the accusations, including the hoverboard incident, which Stockler described as “absolutely stupid.”
But Stockler questioned whether Lookhart’s conduct was criminal.
“There’s bigger questions to be answered sometimes of, ‘Is this a crime?’ which, I’m not minimizing what he did. It was wrong,” Stockler said. “But I’ve seen much more dangerous things where no doctor has been charged.”
Lookhart’s trial is now in its fifth week and expected to wrap up Friday. Then, as a “bench trial,” it will be up to Judge Michael Wolverton to decide.