VANCOUVER - After months of being on the run, a British Columbia man who defied a court order not to practice dentistry illegally in the province is going to jail.
Tung Sheng Wu, also known as David, escaped from B.C. to Ontario in the summer after the B.C. College of Dental Surgeons revealed he had been treating patients without a licence in a Metro Vancouver home under unhygienic conditions.
Wu had agreed to stop practising dentistry in 2003 after being ordered to do so by a court.
Last month, a B.C. Supreme Court judge sentenced him in absentia to three months in jail for contempt of that court order. Wu was also ordered to pay back the dental college for costs involved with its investigation.
A nation-wide warrant for Wu's arrest was issued in August, along with a $2,000-reward from the dental college. The unlicenced dentist finally turned himself in to Toronto police on the weekend.
Wu was shoeless and wearing athletic wear when he appeared in court Friday.
He official heard his sentence with the help of a Mandarin interpreter.
"In my view, the contender's conduct in the present case calls for a committal to jail," said Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen.
"His conduct is serious as it implicates the health and safety of members of the public. While they may have been aware of the contender's lack of status and the unsanitary conditions of his operations, the potential impact on his clients and the public of the unregulated practice of dentistry is serious."
Cullen added that a three-month jail sentence is appropriate, given that Wu's conduct was highly publicized in media reports, and that there was evidence the 62-year-old was planning to move his practice elsewhere in Canada.
The B.C. College of Dental Surgeons speculated in August that Wu was planning to set up shop again, possibly in Toronto, after searching his car and finding dental equipment.
When Wu's practice was closed, the college also urged his patients to get tested for blood-borne illnesses.
So far, no one has tested positive for an infection, the judge noted when he addressed the court.
College registrar Jerome Marburg said on Friday that he is satisfied Wu — someone who he said made money by victimizing people — will now be off the streets and will no longer pose a risk to public health.
"If you're going to do things that are illegal and harm people in Canada, we don't stand for that," he said. "You will be in court and you will face the consequences."
Marburg estimates that the college has now spent more than $150,000 in its quest to bring Wu to justice. While the college would like to see some of the money back, its priority is public protection, Marburg said.
Wu did not speak in court on Friday other than to ask for an interpreter.
It's unclear why he turned himself in, but the dental college's lawyer Brent Olthuis said he believes Wu had dug himself into a hole.
"I suspect that Mr. Wu found himself in Toronto without any of his dental tools and without his passport, so he had really nowhere else to flee and no tools in which to continue to practice illegal dentistry," he said. "I suspect he eventually felt pressure and decided just to face the music."
Note to readers: This is a corrected version. The original story incorrectly referred to a six month jail term.
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