A pediatric rheumatologist who once worked at Children’s Mercy Hospital was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday after he pleaded guilty to coercion and enticement of a minor.
In his guilty plea agreement in September, Mark Franklin Hoeltzel admitted that he created a fake Facebook persona under the name “Ryan Gardner” to contact minor girls, including an 8th grader from whom he requested sexually explicit photographs.
Hoeltzel worked at Children’s Mercy Hospital from 2007 to June 2013. In January, the hospital sent a letter to families of children who were treated by Hoeltzel saying it was conducting a thorough review of his tenure there.
Jake Jacobson, a spokesman for Children’s Mercy, said two families expressed concern about Hoeltzel after receiving the letter.
“Those concerns were referred to law enforcement,” Jacobson said via email on Friday. “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.”
The University of Michigan, where Hoeltzel worked after he left Children’s Mercy, investigated Hoeltzel in 2006 for allegedly texting and emailing an 11-year-old girl for two years after meeting her at a juvenile arthritis camp. The university ordered him to undergo counseling but allowed him to keep his job.
In January, prosecutors in Michigan charged Hoeltzel with receiving and possessing child pornography. An investigation revealed Hoeltzel had carried on a sexual relationship with a patient beginning when she was 18 years old and continuing for three years.
After learning of the investigation, federal authorities executed a search warrant at Hoeltzel’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, home, where they discovered child pornography on a flash drive they seized.
Hoeltzel specialized in treating girls with rheumatoid arthritis. Prosecutors said in their sentencing memorandum that when Hoeltzel wasn’t in the office, “he pretended to be a teenage boy so that he could engage in online conversations with minor girls the same age as many of his patients."
"These girls were all over the country: Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, Washington, Kentucky and Virginia," the memorandum stated. "Defendant perfected his fake persona; he knew exactly what to say to girls to get them to talk to him. 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.”
Hoeltzel, 47, is married and has three children. He graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 2001. He was stripped of his medical license after the state of Michigan began looking into allegations he was intimate with a patient while at work.
Hoeltzel was originally charged with seven felonies, but prosecutors dropped six of the charges in exchange for his guilty plea.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.