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Breaking News: An Update on the ‘Operation Tooth Fairy’ Dentist Investigation

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Over the past couple of months, Florida Daily has been covering the story dubbed “Operation Tooth Fairy.” It involves a state-authorized investigation into a local Jacksonville dentist Dr. Howard Fetner.

In case you missed Florida Daily’s coverage of this situation, which has included both sides of the story, here is the background:

Dr. Jose Mellado and his wife, Dr. Ania Cabrerizo, were paid a staggering $24 million, in 2022, for 70% of the non-clinical portion of their pediatric dental practice. According to court documents, soon after the deal closed, the two worked vigorously to sabotage the practice and undercut their plans to expand. The workplace became toxic with accusations of swearing and cursing at employees and even became disruptive during board meetings. Ultimately, the board fired Mellado as CEO and brought in Jacksonville dentist Dr. Howard Fetner to take his place.

Friends who know Fetner, a 38-year medical professional, say he has a spotless record and a massive, loyal patient base. Despite the reputation, news reports document that Mellado and Cabrerizo launched a smear campaign against Dr. Fetner and filed a civil suit to callously seek to regain control of the practice they majorly profited from in the nearly $25 million sale.

As the legal battlelines were being drawn, Mellado and his longtime friend and business associate Barbara Feingold, strategized to contribute to Patronis’ PAC, “Treasure Florida.” In September of 2022, almost simultaneously, Mellado donated $2,000; Feingold $50,000.

Apparently, it was the first and only contribution either had ever made to Patronis’ PAC.

Critics sharing their insights with Florida Daily point to what they call a “non-coincidence” that just three months later, Patronis’ Department of Financial Services (DFS) detectives launched an investigation into Mellado’s enemies. According to a report in the Florida Bulldog, the effort was entitled “Operation Tooth Fairy” and was personally commanded by Patronis.

“This has been thoroughly disputed, denied, and disgraced and the CFO’s office has failed to persuade anyone that this highly publicized case is anything more than a calculated, cynical work of fiction,” said one of Florida Daily’s sources.

They point to the latest evidence: A letter sent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by Florida’s 8th Circuit State’s Attorney Brian Kramer, who became the third prosecutor to decisively reject the “Tooth Fairy” farce.

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In a letter obtained by Florida Daily, Kramer points out how the case went from Miami to Tallahassee to Jacksonville — and finally to Gainesville.

At every stop, the answer has been the same: Decisive rejection of prosecuting a case that independent experts outside the DFS world have repeatedly found to be without any merit or truth. Sources for Florida Daily point out that Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office declined to press a case that has increasingly proven to be without merit, according to multiple sources.

In the same letter, State Attorney Kramer said the “theory” of the DFS’ Division of Investigative & Forensic Services investigators — who were reportedly directed by Patronis – was “circumspect at best, and there is little evidence to support it.”

Kramer wrote to the governor and said that he could not pursue the case, noting that charges had already been dismissed against five other people and that Fetner’s involvement in the matter was “ancillary.” Kramer also noted that Dr. Fetner cooperated with investigators and proffered testimony.

A watchdog group known as Integrity Florida is asking Gov. DeSantis and Attorney General Moody to launch an independent investigation into this matter, stating, “If state investigators with arrest power were weaponized to exact revenge for political allies and donors against their enemies, it “deserves attention at the highest levels of Florida government.”

‘Not one, not two, but now three independent prosecutors have rejected this case and it’s time to put a stop to this investigation that has been discredited multiple times,” an attorney told Florida Daily.

Here are the members of the Florida Board of Dentistry, the people who have the power to end this long, unfortunate nightmare for Dr. Howard Fetner:

Jose R. Mellado, chair from North Miami Beach; Karyn Hill, Parkland; Thomas McCawley, Ft. Lauderdale; Nicholas White, Winter Park; Angela Johnson, DeLand; Fabio Andrade, Weston; Ben Assad Mirza, Plantation; Claudio L. Miro, Miami.

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