The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. has spent nearly $130,000 looking for a rogue "dentist" who is deliberately evading authorities, says a lawyer for the college who has asked a B.C. Supreme Court judge to find Tung Sheng Wu in contempt.
Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen on Tuesday adjourned the contempt hearing for about two weeks – giving Mr. Wu, also known as David, one last chance to turn himself in. Lawyer Brent Olthuis, who is representing the college, acknowledged it is rare to proceed in absentia.
The court heard Mr. Wu, who health authorities say put 1,500 patients at risk by running a clandestine, unlicensed dental operation out of his home, has made numerous and deliberate efforts to avoid being caught. These include moving out of a rented room in August, just one month after moving in and signing a lease, and attempting to transport his leased vehicle, possibly out of country.
Michael Lantz, a private investigator retained by the college, located inside Mr. Wu's seized vehicle two passports – Taiwanese and Canadian – belonging to Mr. Wu. The photos, which appear identical, were stamped June 9, according to a sworn affidavit by Mr. Lantz. The Taiwanese passport was issued July 18. That passport also contained a visa for the People's Republic of China, with an issue date of July 24.
"It is clear that the defendant is aware of these proceedings," Mr. Olthuis told Justice Cullen. "He was present at the college's initial search of [his residence] in Burnaby and was served then with materials in support of the warrant. Those indicated that the college intended to proceed with the present application and the defendant chose not to respond.
"We submit that the inference is virtually inevitable that the defendant is aware of the warrant and is deliberately taking steps to frustrate its execution."
The college has so far spent about $75,000 on investigative and legal costs, according to Jerome Marburg, the college's registrar and CEO. This is in addition to staff and operational costs of about $52,000.
Alexander Penner, a dentist and complaint investigator with the CDSBC since 2001, said in court documents this matter is "by far the most complex and costly investigation I have ever been involved in."
A Canada-wide warrant for Mr. Wu's arrest was issued on Aug. 12 after he failed to appear at a court hearing. After receiving a complaint in April, the CDSBC had discovered he was still practising without a licence despite having been caught before in 2003 and signing a court injunction promising to stop.
A few days later, the college was granted authority to seize and search his vehicle. In addition to the passport, investigators found a wealth of equipment, tools and supplies related to dentistry, its total retail value estimated at about $45,000. Several surgical kits, including three labelled "demo," were found to have "gone missing" from a local college after a course in 2008.
If Mr. Wu fails to turn himself in, the contempt of court hearing will resume on Oct. 9.