French dentists jailed for mass mutilation and fraud

·2-min read

A French court on Thursday sent a father-and-son dentist team to prison for years for needlessly removing teeth from hundreds of patients and  fitting expensive dental bridges that left many disfigured and in pain.

Lionel Guedj, 42, set up his surgery in a poor neighbourhood of the southern city of Marseille and operated for six years with assistance from his father Carnot Guedj before being charged with deliberate violence causing mutilations in 2012.

During their trial that ended in April, prosecutors said Lionel Guedj performed an estimated 3,900 root canal operations on the  perfectly healthy teeth of 327 patients, requiring them to be pulled out and replaced with bridges.

That saw him become France's highest-paid dentist in 2010, when he billed some 2.9 million euros ($2.9 million).

France's national health service, which bore part of the cost of the fraudulent operations, said he fitted 28 times more bridges than the average dentist.

The son told the court, "Never, but never, did I intend to injure or cause pain."

But presiding judge Celine Ballerini said Thursday the two men had set up a "systematic" scheme that had "destroyed" the lives of patients who could no longer bear to smile and suffered "intolerable pain".

Lionel Guedj was sentenced to eight years in prison, and his father  five years.

Both had been  booed by a crowd as they arrived at the Marseille courthouse.

In a rare move, the judge ordered both men directly to prison, regardless of whether or not they decide to appeal, to applause from dozens of victims attending the hearing.

Many former patients were furious that the pair had remained at liberty since being charged. Several testified to suffering intense pain as well as social isolation because of the mutilations.

"I had lost half my teeth by the time I was 45, and at 55 I no longer had any, only implants," Ouassila, who declined to give her full name, said ahead of the ruling.

san/js/tgb/bp