Photo via Flickr user Zdenko Zivkovic
Dr. John Hall was the kind of dentist who could inspire horror films. He had developed a reputation in his office in Cornelius, North Carolina for experimenting with unconventional treatments. One day, during a routine visit, he told a patient that he was "going to put something in her mouth that would taste funny, but would stop the bleeding." Then he used a syringe to inject the fluid and told her to swallow it. That fluid was semen.
This was not the first time Dr. Hall had injected his own semen into his patients' mouths. Two of his employees had begun collecting suspicious syringes left in his office after they overheard the doctor telling patients to swallow something and at least one female patient objected to doing so, on the grounds that the liquid he was preparing to inject "smelled like sperm."
When Dr. Hall was eventually brought to court—for violating dentistry's standard of care, engaging in immoral conduct, and seven misdemeanor counts of sexual assault—six former patients provided testimonies about how the doctor had incorporated his semen into their dental visits. Another woman also alleged that Dr. Hall had pounced on her in the dental chair and began to "gyrate against her lower body in a sexual manner." The police had confiscated syringes from Dr. Hall's office, which DNA tests proved had traces of his semen in them. The issue of whether or not his homemade remedy did, in fact, stop oral bleeding was never made clear, to the dismay of frat boys around the world.
All of this is to say that a dentist like Dr. Hall should not be in practice. After he pleaded guilty to the charges in 2005, he spent four months in Mecklenburg County jail and had his dentistry license permanently revoked—which is still a pretty sweet deal for making multiple patients swallow a load while in his dentist's chair.
"How in the world can he just walk away from this? There's no justice in this," said Lisa Carpenter, one of his victims at the time, referring to his light sentence. Jail time notwithstanding, at least Dr. Hall would never practice dentistry again.
But early last month, on the island of San Pedro in Belize, Dr. Hall came dangerously close to opening a new clinic before police ultimately discovered his seedy past.
San Pedro is probably best known as the inspiration for the Madonna track, "La Isla Bonita," and a violent feud between the Bloods and the Crips. It's a popular tourist destination for those looking to unwind in the idyllic landscape and blue-green waters, but it's also a poor country with a history of corruption.
On November 18, 2015, Dr. Hall ran an advertisement in the local Belizean newspaper, The San Pedro Sun, searching for a dental assistant. It was the first in a series of ads—first soliciting office space and staff, then advertising the grand opening of his new practice, The Oceanside Dental Clinic.
Even without knowing his nefarious past, Tamara Sniffin, editor of the San Pedro Sun, told VICE the advertisements seemed suspicious. "We did wonder how he had obtained a license to practice [dentistry], as traditionally this is a painstaking, lengthy process that discourages many foreigners from even trying," said Sniffin.
Even if you're licensed in another country, getting a license to practice abroad is a bureaucratic and often laborious process. Practitioners first need to secure a work permit, then send in their license from their home country, along with paperwork like university transcripts, board exam scores, and recommendation letters. According to ex-pat blogs on the topic, the process can take many months and the government has a "protectionist attitude" toward reserving high-paying jobs for Belizean citizens. So when Sniffin saw the ads from an American doctor opening his dentistry practice in San Pedro, she found it unusual.
As it turns out, though, Dr. Hall did have a license to practice in Belize. He'd received a work permit under his real name, but before he applied for a Belizean dentistry license, he had to get his highly-Googleable semen incident behind him. So instead of using his legal name (John Robert Hall) he came up with a cleverly devised pseudonym, Robert Bob Hall (or if shortened, Bob Bob Hall). Within weeks, the Medical Council of Belize had issued a Belizean dentistry license to Dr. Robert Bob Hall.
It's not entirely clear how this happened. As Sniffen pointed out, it's unusual for foreigners to have work permits and licenses processed so easily, and while Dr. Hall's license was issued under his fake name, his passport and work permit listed his real name. Still, receiving falsely-issued documents from the Belizean government isn't unheard of: A few years ago, immigration officials in the country—including the Minister of State in the Immigration Ministry—were found to be selling Belizean passports.
As the grand opening of Dr. Hall's new clinic loomed, Sniffen—the newspaper editor—began receiving emails from concerned residents, linking to news articles about Hall's 2005 conviction. She told me she forwarded the well-documented evidence of Dr. Hall's crimes to the Ministry of Health, but received no response. So she took matters into her own hands.
"On the morning of [December] 7, I went to the San Pedro Police Department, armed with a folder full of printed articles and info on the deviant, disgusting behavior of Dr. Hall," Sniffin told me. "There was no way in hell I was going to let that pervert touch one person on this island and I thank those who brought it to our attention and worked with us on shutting this creep down."
After receiving the information, Assistant Superintendent Henry Jemmott, Commander of the San Pedro Police, arrested Dr. Hall for "making false representation"—just hours prior to the opening of his new dentistry clinic.
"The people of San Pedro are angry at the Belize Medical Council for overlooking the mistake with the name," Jemmott told me, "but my people are glad that it's been brought to light."
Dr. Hall has been released after posting bail and wrote a 1,400-word manifesto, where he claims he came to Belize "to help the local people with free dentistry" and insists his innocence in the 2004 semen crimes.
"I never thought I would be ridiculed, cussed at, and made fun of with harmful threats to me and my dog based on assumptions instead of facts," wrote Dr. Hall in his manifesto. "When I was accused of a disgusting and absurd action of placing semen in patient's mouths. I did not do what I was accused of doing!"
As of now, Dr. Hall is awaiting trial in San Pedro. He's had his travel documents confiscated by the authorities and is said to be keeping a low-profile on the island until his February 12 court date. Weirdly, the sign for the Oceanside Dental Clinic is still up on the building—an eerie reminder of the semen-squirting dentist who almost was.
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