A former Children’s Mercy doctor was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday in Michigan after admitting he made a fake Facebook page to engage in “sexting” with minors.
In addition, he is under scrutiny for concerns raised by former Kansas City area patients.
Mark F. Hoeltzel, a pediatric rheumatologist who worked at Children’s Mercy from 2007 to 2013, had already lost his medical license for having an improper sexual relationship with an 18-year-old female patient in Michigan for whom he was also prescribing narcotic pain medications.
But his sentencing in federal court was for contacting girls under 18 via a Facebook profile in which he pretended to be a teenage boy named “Ryan Gardner.”
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“The sentencing handed down in this case reflects the serious nature of the crimes committed, which are particularly troubling given the defendant’s role in the community as a physician,” Steve Francis, a federal agent who investigated Hoeltzel, said in a news release. “Mr. Hoeltzel abandoned his oath to ‘do no harm’ and instead sought opportunities to harm and exploit innocent children.”
Hoeltzel’s attorney, Raymond Cassar, said the prosecution had asked for a 15-year sentence but the judge instead gave Hoeltzel only the mandatory minimum sentence of 120 months and allowed him to surrender himself when he’s to begin his sentence rather than be taken into custody immediately.
“The judge focused on Mr. Hoeltzel’s significant post arrest rehabilitation efforts and his commitment to help others while in prison,” Cassar said.
In a sentencing memo, prosecutors said Hoeltzel, 47, used the Ryan Gardner profile to contact underage girls in Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, Washington, Kentucky and Virginia.
“He knew exactly what to say to girls to get them to talk to him,” the memo said. “He sent several of the girls pictures and videos of his penis. He also requested that a 14-year-old produce child pornography for him. And he collected child pornography that he downloaded from the internet.”
Records produced by Facebook showed that Hoeltzel opened the “Ryan Gardner” account on Jan. 16, 2017, and used it to communicate with 930 other users, “the vast majority of them appearing to be minor girls,” according to the memo.
Hoeltzel was originally charged with seven felonies, most related to child pornography. But prosecutors dropped six charges after he agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of enticement of a minor. Hoeltzel will have to register as a sex offender after serving his sentence.
The charges spurred Children’s Mercy to announce in January an internal investigation of his interactions with patients.
An unnamed former patient then told Fox4 that Hoeltzel repeatedly texted her after he moved to Michigan, inviting her to come visit him and asking her for pictures of herself.
Children’s Mercy spokesman Jake Jacobson said Thursday that after the hospital notified all of Hoeltzel’s former patients, two families expressed concern about his conduct.
“Those concerns were referred to law enforcement,” Jacobson said via email. “Our review, which included a thorough, independent investigation, did not find any other allegations of misconduct with patients by Dr. Hoeltzel while he was at Children’s Mercy.”