After-hours dental business busted in Montco

BRYN MAWR, Pa. - December 17, 2012

Root canals, x-rays, pulling teeth: you name it, investigators say a fake dentist and fake dental assistant did it.

Smilz 4 Life was open Monday. Investigators say during the day it operates as a legitimate business. After hours, though, was a different story.

Its owner is hoping Smilz 4 Life will not be tainted for life after Lower Merion Police say receptionist Jessica Gullickson and dental assistant Cheryl Laing set up an illegal practice after hours and treated uninsured patients.

"It's a little concerning," said John Staszewski of Narberth, Pa. "There's no type of checks and balances for that type of thing. I would say it's buyer beware, almost, but it shouldn't have to be."

Investigators say Laing pretended to be a licensed dentist and advertised by word of mouth that she could perform any procedure for cash only at this Bryn Mawr office on Old Lancaster Road.

Police say she didn't take patient histories or find out if they had drug allergies but she and her partner in crime took x-rays, did root canals, pulled teeth and gave out meds.

"People need to do their homework a little better and make sure everyone is accredited," said Catherine Finkbiner of Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Police say the owner of the practice, real dentist Dr. Alan Fan, had no clue what was happening after hours.

One patient called him a "fabulous" dentist. Others were troubled. We were there today as one former patient, Julie Caulfield, retrieved her records from the office. I asked her why.

"Because I don't want to have anything to do with the business any longer," she said, "and I don't think a lot of truth is coming out."

Investigators haven't said how long the fake dentist and dental assistant were operating, but so far they've identified three patients. They believe there are dozens more because of logs for the x-ray machine.

After her arraignment, Laing had something to say: "To know us is to love us. That's all I have to say."

Attorney Barry Gross issued the following statement on behalf of Smilz 4 Life's owner, Dr. Alan Fan:

My client was shocked and dismayed to learn that the practice he worked so hard to build was being used in this after-hours manner. He was not aware of these activities and had cooperated fully with the authorities and will continue to do so. We want to express our sincere thanks to the Lower Merion Police Department and the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office for their ongoing efforts in this case.

Bail for Fan's two employees has been set at $10,000 each.

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