Two plead guilty to running phony dental practice

Posted: July 05, 2013

Two Delaware County women who set up a phony dental practice in Bryn Mawr, where they performed root canal operations and pulled teeth, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges related to their scam.

In a pretrial proceeding before Judge William J. Furber Jr., Cheryl A. Laing, 46, and Jessica Gullickson, 24, both of Broomall, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of theft by deception, recklessly endangering another person, and unauthorized practice of dentistry, said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney John Neumann Gradel.

"She owned up to her responsibility in this case by her plea today," said Laing's attorney, Jason G. Donoghue, "and she looks forward to the day she can put this all behind her."

Gullickson's attorney, David B. Mischak, said that his client's plea was "a very difficult decision," that she had no criminal record, and that she never intended to participate in a criminal activity.

The duo were employees at the legitimate dental practice Smilz 4 Life on Old Lancaster Road near Bryn Mawr Hospital in Lower Merion Township. Laing was a dental assistant and Gullickson a receptionist, according to the District Attorney's Office.

After office hours, they assumed new personas and new duties.

"Laing set up her own dental practice at Smilz 4 Life while holding herself out to patients as a licensed dentist," District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said in a news release at the time of the arrest in December. Gullickson became Laing's dental assistant.

The dentist who owned the business at the time did not know of their activities and cooperated with investigators.

Laing began spreading the word that she was available to perform most dental procedures at a "drastically reduced price," Ferman said in the release. With Laing presenting herself as a licensed dentist, the two did just that.

They took X-rays, installed crowns and braces, injected numbing agents, and dispensed medicines, in addition to performing tooth extractions and root canal operations.

"One patient indicated that he was in excruciating pain for the 45 minutes it took Laing to extract his tooth," Ferman said. "Another patient indicated that during her root canal, Laing left the room and told Gullickson, who had no medical or dental training whatsoever, to 'find the root.' "

They accepted cash only, kept no records, and did not check whether patients had drug allergies before treatments.

Laing and Gullickson are free on their own recognizance.

The sentencing will take place in about 90 days, after a presentencing report is completed. The maximum jail term each could receive is 34 years.


Contact Carolyn Davis at 610-313-8109 or cdavis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @carolyntweets.

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