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Phony dentist’s patients test clear for diseases, so far

An image taken from a video recorded by private investigators shows unlicensed dentist Tung Sheng Wu being visited by police and other authorities at his home office in Burnaby on May 29, 2013.

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Since first issuing a health alert about "basement dentist" Wu Tung Sheng more than three months ago, the Fraser Health Authority has contacted more than 450 of his former patients, testing them for blood-borne illnesses.

"To date, Fraser Health has not identified any individuals who acquired an infection as a result of seeing Mr. Wu," Dr. Michelle Murti, medical health officer for Fraser Health said in a statement sent to The Globe and Mail on Monday.

"Fraser Health did identify a small number of people who tested positive for blood-borne illnesses, however all of those individuals were aware of their infections prior to seeing Mr. Wu."

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The patients were tested for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

After three months on the run, Mr. Wu's stint as a fugitive rogue dentist ended in a Toronto courtroom on Monday, when he was ordered to remain in detention until he is flown back to British Columbia.

B.C. is where his legal troubles started this spring with allegations that he performed illegal dentistry in an unsanitary Burnaby basement. Also known as David Wu, he was sentenced in absentia by the B.C. Supreme Court to three months in jail for continuing to practise without a licence despite a 2003 court order.

With a Canada-wide warrant and a $2,000 reward on him, Mr. Wu surrendered early Saturday evening, showing up at the front desk of the 42 Division police station in east-end Toronto. Bundled in a blue parka and his hands cuffed behind his back, Mr. Wu appeared in Ontario Superior Court Monday.

Crown attorney Warren Thompson said the authorities would have to return him to B.C. within six days or release him. Justice Ken Campbell remanded Mr. Wu into custody until Friday while his transportation is arranged.

He also said he didn't want to be photographed by the media on his return but Justice Campbell said he could not arrange that.

At B.C. Supreme Court the same day, Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullin directed sheriffs to escort Mr. Wu back to B.C., said lawyer Brent Olthuis, who is representing the college. Mr. Wu will then have an opportunity to address the court and raise any concerns he may have, but "we expect that he would be sent to a jail in the Lower Mainland to serve his three-month sentence," Mr. Olthuis said.

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The College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia spent more than $140,000 investigating Mr. Wu, calling him "a person without honour or regard for Canadian civil society." Jerome Marburg, registrar and CEO of the college, said he is "incredibly proud" of the work done by staff, investigators and lawyers.

"We're gratified that he's off the street and we know for sure that he's not harming more people," Mr. Marburg said. "It's not an issue of being happy or joyous, because it's essentially a public-health story where there's somebody who's been a purveyor of harm, but it's nice to have confirmation he's not continuing, at least, at this point."

The college said Mr. Wu might have practised as early as the 1990s, when he is alleged to have operated out of a Port Moody residence. He was first caught in 2002 and told his lawyer that he was contrite about his past violations. In early 2003, he signed a court injunction agreeing to stop practising dentistry unlawfully in B.C.

In 2007, when he declared personal bankruptcy, claiming nearly $200,000 in debt, he listed his occupation as "self-employed tour guide."

However, the college received a new complaint last spring. According to court documents, college investigators executed a search warrant at a rented bungalow in Burnaby and found a "filthy" bedroom set up as a dental operation, dental instruments and "evidence of inadequate sterilization methods." While there are few records, investigators believe Mr. Wu treated up to 1,500 patients over the years.

The college had heard, anecdotally, that Mr. Wu had trained and operated a successful practice overseas, however he has never been licensed in B.C., Mr. Marburg said.

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Former patients have told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Wu charged about half what other dentists were quoting. But Mr. Marburg stressed that people who go to unlicensed dentists are putting themselves at risk, adding the B.C. Dental Association can recommend affordable options.

"If somebody is in need of emergency care, there are no-cost and low-cost options," he said. "There are also many a dentist who will work with somebody who can't otherwise afford to pay, who will either do it for a reduced fee or low fee, or on a payment schedule."

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