Perpetrating a fraud and stealing the consumer’s confidence
Perpetrating a fraud and stealing the consumer’s confidence
By K. Chandler
Mary Ellen Amaker, 61, a retired insurance adjuster who frequently travels between Florida and South Carolina to visit family, says she had no idea that she was putting her life in jeopardy when she went to Dr. David L. Lawrence’s Denture World clinic on March 5, 2009, to have her upper partial plate replaced.
Being unfamiliar with the Fort Lauderdale area, Amaker initially found a dentist on Las Olas Boulevard near the ocean. But when she was given a $1,500 price quote, she decided to continue looking around.
Ultimately she selected Dr. Lawrence, who was then located at 10094 W. McNab Road in Tamarac. After being quoted $600 to replace her upper partial, Amaker agreed to the terms and paid the amount, feeling that she had gotten a good deal. She was later accompanied by her daughter, Avian, to her dental appointment.
As a backdrop to this story, Mary Ellen Amaker says that she was warned by a doctor years ago, following a rear-end collision at the hands of a drunk driver, that the medication she was now taking to control seizures would eventually cause her to lose her teeth. No truer words were spoken.
“Having been a professional person the majority of my life, my smile means a lot to me,” she said, explaining how she came to be a patient of Dr. Lawrence. At the time she went to visit him, he was running TV commercials promoting Denture World and its three locations in Delray Beach, Deerfield Beach and Tamarac.
After getting her upper partial replaced, Amaker decided to go ahead and have her lower partial replaced as well. Why not, she reasoned when Dr. Lawrence offered to do it for just $250; less than half of what he charged her for the upper partial. It was a deal she felt she couldn’t turn down.
Amaker’s jubilation was short-lived however, as trouble began shortly after she went to have her lower denture fitted. Reclining in the dentist’s chair, Amaker says she tried to warn the dentist, and also began questioning him as well when he began fitting the partial over her back molars.
“It didn’t feel right; it felt too tight,” recalled Amaker.
That’s when he began drilling the hole larger to fit over the molars.
As it turned out, another material besides cast metal had been used for the partial. The larger holes drilled substantially weakened the partial, causing the fitting to snap later, just as she had warned Dr. Lawrence.
Returning to South Florida to have the partial fixed, A-maker began to get a nervous feeling when Dr. Lawrence came back into the examining room with a powdered solution he was mixing in a bowl. The result was as Amaker had feared.
“Instead of looking natural, he botched my lower partial. He jerry-rigged my partial so that it looked like I had bunny teeth. The last thing I wanted was for people to say, ‘Wow, you can sure tell she’s wearing dentures,’ every time I opened up my mouth.”
Dentist beats Amaker to getting mad
Things got pretty heated, recalled Amaker after she voiced her displeasure.
“He (Dr. Lawrence) kept saying, ‘I can fix it. I can fix it’,” but things only went from bad to worse, with the dentist literally screaming at her, so loudly in fact that the secretary felt compelled to shut the door so that the mostly Island patients still out in the waiting area couldn’t hear them.
“I stood up,” recalled Amaker, “and looked him in the eye, and told him to lower his voice and stop yelling at me. Instead he stormed out of the room.”
Amaker found his behavior so bizarre that she captured it on the digital camera that she always carried around with her.
It was around this time that another dentist by the name of Dr. Cehini walked in. He tried to get Amaker to let him fix her lower partial. By then, after everything that she had endured, Amaker had lost all faith in this particular dental clinic and she refused to allow anyone else to touch her.
Before walking out, she stopped in the front waiting area. Asking to see the dentist’s license displayed on the wall behind the receptionist’s desk, she was taken aback when her request was flatly refused. Instead, the secretary wrote down an erroneous name on a business card.
Undeterred, Amaker went down to Tamarac City Hall. Inquiring about the dental clinic, she was told they hadn’t gotten their license renewed yet. According to the clerk, they were always late in renewing their license and it was past time for it to be renewed.
Amaker started calling state agencies, the AMA, everywhere she could think of. But she couldn’t seem to get to the bottom of the situation, until one day, after enormous digging, she learned that the man passing himself off as Dr. David L. Lawrence was not licensed in the State of Florida as a dentist or dental hygienist. In fact, he had “no business practicing dentistry on anybody,” said Amaker in frustration.
“Not only did Dr. Lawrence botch my lower partial, he used inferior materials, charging me full price for the products, and then he beats me to getting mad when I complain,” stated Amaker.
Amaker sought out legal counsel but soon learned that since she hadn’t been irrevocably harmed, it really didn’t profit the law firm to go after the dental clinic. But she could, they informed her.
Flash forward to September 2012
It has now been nearly three years since that fateful day, March 5, 2009 when Amaker first stepped foot into Dr. Lawrence’s Denture World clinic in Tamarac. Despite people having come forward to complain about Denture World, it took nearly a year and a half from the time Amaker first brought Dr. Lawrence to the attention of the authorities to finally arrest him on Sept. 22, 2010, for practicing without a license.
Amaker says she would like an answer from Broward State Attorney Michael Sachs as to why this case is taking so long to grind its way through the court system. So far she’s received standby subpoenas twice to appear in court only to have the subpoenas later withdrawn.
“With each delay, with each postponement, I feel victimized all over again,” said Amaker recently from South Carolina. “Why is this case being constantly postponed? People who’ve committed lesser crimes in their lives have been tried, sentenced and served their time in the time it’s taken for this case to even come to court.
“My theory is they’re going to continue to get this case postponed until one day the judge is simply going to say, “I think we’ve spent enough time on this case. I’m throwing it out. That’s my worst fear,” stated Amaker.