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May 26, 2023


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In their case against Seth Lookhart, Alaska prosecutors included video of the dentist on a hoverboard and pulling a tooth. Mr. Lookhart was convicted in January of fraud, unlawful dental acts and other charges.

By Christine Hauser

Seth Lookhart, a dentist in Alaska, pulled a tooth out of a sedated woman's mouth while balancing on a hoverboard, one video showed. He rolled down the hallway, pulled his gloves off and threw his hands in the air, another showed.

Mr. Lookhart then sent the videos to people outside the practice, prosecutors said, and the footage became part of a wide-ranging case against the dentist on charges of fraud, embezzlement and unlawful dental acts.

On Monday, Judge Michael Wolverton of Anchorage Superior Court sentenced Mr. Lookhart to 20 years in prison, with eight years suspended, and to 10 years of probation, a statement from Alaska's Department of Law said this week. Mr. Lookhart had been charged in 2017 with felony offenses of medical assistance fraud, theft in the second degree and a scheme to defraud.

Other charges included misdemeanor offenses for medical assistance fraud and unlawful dental acts, the state prosecutor's office said. The prosecutors said that Mr. Lookhart, 35, "almost killed many patients by performing anesthesia thousands of times without training or consent, on patients outside his scope of training and expertise, while stealing money from Medicaid and embezzling from his bosses."

A separate hearing is scheduled for the end of this month to determine restitution, to compensate for the funds that Mr. Lookhart fraudulently obtained from the Alaska Medicaid system and embezzled, the office said. Prosecutors are seeking $2.2 million, they said.

Mr. Lookhart was found guilty on 46 felony and misdemeanor counts in January. His lawyer, Kevin Fitzgerald, could not immediately be reached on Friday.

Reading from a prepared statement in court, Mr. Lookhart said that "looking back, I can't say exactly when I began to go off course," according to the local news outlet KTUU. "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 added, "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."

Mr. Lookhart graduated from dental school in 2014 and moved to Alaska to work, according to the criminal complaint against him. He started out as a contractor for a local clinic before forming his own practice in the Anchorage area called Clear Creek Dental, owned by his corporation, Lookhart Dental LLC, it said. He built his dentistry mostly around Medicaid recipients, prosecutors said.

He also began offering IV sedation, an action that helped bring him to the attention of the authorities.

The state started investigating Mr. Lookhart's clinic in 2016, after a former employee contacted the authorities to report that he was performing more sedation than necessary on Medicaid patients to increase profits, prosecutors said. The former employee also said that Mr. Lookhart was engaged "in other questionable practices," they added.

The complaint accused Mr. Lookhart of charging patients for unnecessary intravenous sedation, as well as billing Medicaid up to $2.5 million for those procedures, between May 2015 and February 2017.

Investigators found the videos of Mr. Lookhart on the hoverboard on his cellphone and that of his office manager, Shauna Cranford, the complaint says. One "appeared to be a tooth extraction being performed by Lookhart while he was riding a hoverboard." He sent it to several people and joked about the procedure representing a "new standard of care," the complaint says.

A second video shows him riding the hoverboard in the office, it says.

The patient in the video, a woman, was not aware she was being recorded, the complaint says.

Mr. Lookhart's co-defendants — Ms. Cranford and his corporation — are scheduled for sentencing this week on the same charges. Ms. Cranford had pleaded guilty to charges before Mr. Lookhart's conviction, prosecutors said in January.

Christine Hauser is a reporter, covering national and foreign news. Her previous jobs in the newsroom include stints in Business covering financial markets and on the Metro Desk in the police bureau. @ChristineNYT