A rogue Metro Vancouver dentist still wanted on a Canada-wide warrant was sentenced in absentia Tuesday to three months in jail for contempt of court.
Tung Sheng (David) Wu has been on the lam since his makeshift illegal dental office in a rented Burnaby house on Southwood Street was raided in April after a tip from the public sparked an investigation.
Wu had been working without adequate infection control systems – in contravention of an earlier ban on practising dentistry dating back to 2003 – prompting a public health alert and warnings to more than 450 patients to get tested for blood-borne diseases.
According to the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C., Wu responded to the prosecution by filling a vehicle with dental equipment in August in an attempt to relocate and set up shop in a new jurisdiction.
College CEO Jerome Marburg said in a conference call from Edinburgh, Scotland that Wu has gone into hiding and taken active steps to avoid justice.
“He is a person without honour or regard for Canadian civil society,” he said. “He has preyed on the vulnerable and put many persons’ health at significant risk.”
A B.C. Supreme Court judge also awarded the college special costs, including the cost of investigating and prosecuting the case that already exceeds $140,000.
Marburg said the three-month sentence reflects the seriousness of the case and underscores that the illegal practice of unsanctioned dentistry will not be tolerated.
“We are starting to hear about clients of Mr. Wu’s who have orthodontics and need treatment. We strongly encourage them to see a qualified, registered dentist to have those orthodontics assessed, adjusted or taken out.”
He was also using materials not approved by Health Canada, Marburg said, again urging former clients to get checked out by a qualified dentist to ensure there are no lasting health effects as a result.
Wu is suspected of being in hiding in either Metro Vancouver or Toronto and Marburg said the case won’t be closed until he is found.
Marburg said they’re not convinced they’ll be able to collect on the costs awarded.
“You’ve got to get him first, is the problem … we’ve got to get him and go from there,” he said. “This is a public health issue, much more than a money issue as far as we’re concerned.”
The college’s has not determined what level of training Wu has but is clear it’s not adequate.
“Here’s somebody who’s doing stuff without radiographs, you can’t diagnose things without radiographs. He’s doing things without infection control. Those two alone tell you he doesn’t meet … the standards of a Canadian practitioner.”
Marburg said it would be naive to assume this is an isolated case.
“It’s relatively novel to us, not entirely so, we’ve had experience with this in the past, not a lot,” he said. “Yes, we are looking into some other files.”
The courts have granted the college permission to speak with Canada Revenue Agency about some of Wu’s financial records it discovered during its investigation, which show him taking cash payments from clients and sending substantial amounts of money overseas while reporting a lower level of income on his tax return.
“Our conversations with CRA is going to hopefully bring more powers of the state to this case and CRA certainly has more resources and more powers than we do.”
Anyone with information on Wu’s whereabouts can call the college at 604-209-1708.
“There’s no shame in having been a client of Mr. Wu. There’s no reason to either protect him or hide him.”
An online registry to check any dentist’s status is on the college’s website at cdsbc.org.
Wu was never registered with the college or qualified to practise in B.C. and is not to be confused with two other Metro Vancouver dentists with similar names.
The college has been criticized for failing to monitor Wu in light of the 10-year-old ban and stop him from practising sooner.
Since then, the college has much more technological resources to track such cases, said Marburg. “We do all we can with the resources that we have.”
~ with files from Wanda Chow