A southern California dentist lost his license to practice years ago, but it seems that he is now using a false name to once again practice dentistry on San Diego patients.
Laurie Ann Willhite didn’t have the $8,500 her regular dentist was charging for dental implants; however, when she saw in ad in the San Diego Reader for what seemed like a great deal, she thought her luck had turned.
The ad read, “Seeking Qualified Patients desiring dental implants who are willing to assist us in evaluating a new and improved dental implant system, with shorter treatment time.” When she got in touch with the dentist from Apple Dental Implant Center, Dr. Bob Franco, she learned that he could replace three implants for only $1,500.
Franco told Willhite that he could schedule her for an appointment on the following Monday. It wasn’t until after she made the appointment that she learned that the procedure would be done in Mexico and that she would need to drive across the border with the dentist. This caused a bit of uneasiness for Willhite, but she decided that she would go anyway. “He’s very convincing,” she said. “I mean, I felt like we were best friends by the time I hung up.”
When Willhite’s roommate, Mary Ann Wilson, learned about the details of the appointment, she became immediately suspicious and began to do some research of her own. When she searched online for information about the dentist, she found nothing. This raised a red flag as most professionals have their own websites or at least some degree of a web presence. So, Wilson looked up the address the dentist had given her roommate to meet him and found that it associated with a Dr. Robert Mansueto.
This discovery led Wilson to dozens of civil cases filed against Dr. Mansueto and a 2009 investigation. The report revealed that the Dental Board of California had revoked the dentist’s license and that, despite this, he was still performing surgery on patients in Mexico even though he did not have a license in that country, either.
Wilson decided to do some investigating and proceeded to make an appointment with the unlicensed dentist. She wanted to meet with him face-to-face.
“He’s very persuasive. Very smooth-talking, very calming,” she told the local ABC 10 news team after speaking with the dentist at his office. “It’s like I know what I’m doing, you’re in good hands, let’s go.”
But Wilson did not make an appointment. She told Franco that she had forgotten her driver’s license and couldn’t go to Mexico without her ID. However, Franco told her that he could get her across the border without her ID. Still, she refused. The dentist never X-rayed her teeth, nor did he ask for any sort of medical history documentation from Wilson. He had been ready to take her to Mexico for surgery without even an examination.
Wilson later spoke with a patient who had traveled to Mexico with Franco. She found that the patient had given the dentist access to her bank account before the trip. When the procedure was over, he took her back over the border. She had no complaints about the surgery but was horrified to learn that the dentist was not licensed.
The average new dental practice requires approximately $500,000 to start, and despite the illegal nature of his business, the dentist was willing to risk everything to start over under a false name.
While News 10 was not able to get a statement from the dentist himself, they were contacted by a Coronado Police Officer who spoke on his behalf. The officer told reporters that the dentist was working on getting his license reinstated.