Two weeks after an arrest warrant was issued for unlicensed dentist Tung Sheng Wu, private investigators aren't the only ones still hunting for him – the landlord for his Burnaby clinic would like a word with Mr. Wu as well.
"He ran off two months ago without paying the rent," said Kang Cheng Qian, who co-owns the house with a family friend. "And he was dumping all his [dental] waste in the toilet, it caused thousands of dollars in damage."
Mr. Qian said he'll likely be suing Mr. Wu if investigators manage to find him. But whether the rogue dentist will ever be seen again in B.C. is an open question, as the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. (CDSBC) remains stymied in locating him.
Because the charges facing Mr. Wu, also known as David Wu, are civil and not criminal, police aren't actively searching for him. Instead, the CDSBC has hired Focus Solutions Group, a private investigative firm, to track him down. The CDSBC declined comment when asked how long its resources – which come from fees paid by licensed dentists – will allow it to keep up the search.
Family and friends of Mr. Wu have stayed quiet since his unlicensed practice became public on Aug. 7. Visits over the past week to addresses mentioned in court documents – including a second residence in Coquitlam, his daughter's house in Richmond, and a friend's house in Port Coquitlam – showed few signs of life, with dark and shuttered windows.
Mr. Wu's background remains murky. The CDSBC has speculated the Taiwanese man was trained overseas but never tried to register here. When he was first caught practising without a licence in Port Moody in 2003, he signed a court injunction agreeing to stop. Though he said at the time that he was planning to leave Canada, in 2007 he declared personal bankruptcy in Burnaby, claiming nearly $200,000 in debt. The bankruptcy form said he had four family members, including a wife. His occupation was listed as "self-employed tour guide."
But conversations with clients and neighbours of Mr. Wu have provided some details of how he operated in the community.
His Burnaby clinic, which was raided by the CDSBC in May, was rented by Mr. Wu only about a year ago. His longer-term operation seems to have been based out of a house in Coquitlam, at 2546 Dahlia Crt.
Alex Ho and Carlos Battistini both visted the Coquitlam house during the past two years, having heard about Mr. Wu's cheap dentistry through friends. Clients were told to use the basement entrance, around the back of the large pink house.
"It was just like a normal basement," said Mr. Battistini. "There was a table and chairs there, but nothing fancy. It looked like a workshop."
Mr. Battistini declined to have work performed by Mr. Wu, finding the operation too suspicious, but Mr. Ho said he had his teeth cleaned at the Coquitlam house about two years ago. Both men said the prices were about half what other dentists were quoting. They said Mr. Wu seemed like a quiet but decent man.
According to court documents, Mr. Wu had continued asking clients to come to the Coquitlam house throughout July, two months after his Burnaby clinic was shut down.
Neighbours in Burnaby said he tried to avoid detection, keeping the dentist equipment in a back room that wasn't visible from the front door. "He apparently told people to park away from the house and then walk down the road," said Dawn Jacques, who lived next door.
By all accounts, Mr. Wu's clientele was largely Chinese, but it was likely a culturally and economically diverse group. A Taiwanese woman who lived nearby said she heard many different dialects being spoken by clients. Ms. Jacques said she doubts they were primarily poor immigrants, given the number of Mercedes, Lexus and BMW cars parking outside.
It's too soon to tell whether the dirty conditions and paltry sterilization equipment in Mr. Wu's clinic spread blood-borne viruses, said Fraser Health's Michelle Murti. She said the public health agency has been in contact with about 450 of Mr. Wu's patients, and test results are just now starting to come back in.