Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

February 21, 2014

Couple pleads guilty in dentist case

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — A literally painful chapter in the lives of dozens of area residents who counted on About Face Dental and Denture Care for quality service may take another step toward closure next week.

The husband-and-wife duo of Michael Harold Richardson and Lana Richardson, who ran the business formerly at 103 Rogers Drive, have pleaded guilty in Barren Circuit Court to multiple criminal charges. Their final sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Monday.

Michael H. Richardson, 55, was charged with 32 counts of theft by deception, $500 or more but less than $10,000; 10 counts of theft by deception, under $500; and practicing dentistry without a license, first offense.

Lana Richardson, 52, was charged with 32 counts of complicity to theft by deception, $500 or more but less than $10,000; 10 counts of complicity to theft by deception, under $500; and a single count of complicity to practicing dentistry without a license, first offense.

The charges are related to incidents that occurred from October 2011 through July 2012.

In the meantime, the couple were recently arrested in Coffee County, Tenn., and they had a case under way from 2013 in Maury County, Tenn. Michael Richardson alone has a previous conviction in Simpson County.

The pair changed their pleas to guilty in Barren County in December after their attorney, Ken Garrett, and Commonwealth’s Attorney John Gardner negotiated an agreement that forced the Richardsons to pay back their patients, whose claims share a common theme of being provided a poor-quality product. A lump sum of $27,940 was required at the time from the Richardsons.

The agreement also includes a sentence of five years’ incarceration, but that would be reduced to probation as long as they abide by normal probation terms and the rest of the agreement, which requires them to pay back any other victims who come forward.

Although both sides have signed off on the agreement, it is ultimately up to Circuit Judge Phil Patton whether to accept the terms as presented when he imposes the final sentence.

“The plea agreement reached with the commonwealth takes into great consideration to commonwealth’s desire to make the alleged victims whole,” defense attorney Garrett said. “The plea agreement itself was certainly beneficial to both sides.”

He declined to comment further as the agreement is not official until the judge has ruled.

Gardner said 41 victims had identified at the time of indictment, and at least four more have come forward since the plea was entered.

Anyone claiming to be a victim has to produce proof of being negatively affected by the Richardsons’ business practices. If the judge imposes his sentence in accordance with the agreement, the couple will be on probation for three years. If paying the restitution takes longer than that, however, the probation will continue until restitution is paid in full, Gardner said.

He encourages possible victims to call the commonwealth’s attorney’s office and speak with either him or Micah Reece, the victim advocate. “The sooner the better,” Gardner said.

The victims of the crime

Emogene Garner had been wearing the same set of dentures for about 30 years and they finally broke, she said.

About Face hadn’t been open long, so she decided to try it.

“After I wore them a while, they were hurting my mouth, and I took them back there to have them grind them,” Garner said. She ended up having to leave them there two or three days.

When she went to pick them up, they were on the reception desk in a zipped-up bag with fluid, and no one suggested she try them before leaving, she said.

“I brought them home and washed them off and put them back in, and they still hurt,” Garner said. “I waited a few days and took them back but no one was there.”

A person at the business next door said About Face had “moved out in the night the night before.”

Garner took them somewhere else and paid a few hundred dollars to try to get the lower dentures realigned again, but she still couldn’t wear them. She eventually got another set, which she wears now.

The set she got from About Face  is “laying there in a cup.”

Kay and Curtis Emmitt were in the original group whose restitution was paid in the lump sum.

Kay Emmitt said one day she picked up a newspaper and saw that the defendants had been given a certain amount of time to come up with the restitution, and the next day she called the commonwealth’s attorney’s office. She provided receipts and a statement of her and her husband’s interactions with About Face.

Curtis needed to have his upper plate of dentures replaced, and while they were there, she decided to see about getting the partial plate she needed, she said.

The plate was finished before the Emmitts left on an out-of state trip, and she went back after they returned because they had rough spots that made them uncomfortable, but the issue wasn’t resolved. Her husband’s were too short, she said.

“One day we went back there and they were just gone,” Kay said, adding that they didn’t realize anything could be done about it and simply thought their situation was unique, not realizing so many others had problems with the About Face products.

Factors in the deal

“During the course of handling this, our office was aware that many of the victims were in need of the money,” Gardner said. “A lot of the victims didn’t have the resources to go out and get a new pair of dentures and were suffering with what they had, so that played heavily in my decision that, in order to alleviate some of these victims’ pain and get them a product that actually worked, they would need the money, and need the money quickly in order to do that.”

Gardner said that in his discussions with the defense counsel, he made it clear from the beginning he would not agree to any deal that included probation unless full restitution was paid.

“What I factored in … was if the Richardsons were made to serve time that they would not begin paying restitution until after they served that time,” he said. “And they wouldn’t have agreed, in my opinion, to pay restitution in one lump sum. Instead it would have been paying back at a dollar amount per month that would have taken substantially longer to get the victims restored.”

Gardner also knew of potential charges against the Richardsons in at least one Tennessee location for which they could receive jail time, which factored into his decision as well. No one is required to make restitution while in jail, he said.

Read more about the cases pending in other locations against the same suspects at Coming in Tuesday’s Daily Times: The judge’s decision on sentence, and more from the interviews with victims and attorneys.

Read more in the print or digital Glasgow Daily Times.