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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Alarming Tale From Dentists’ Office

DENVER (CN) - A dentist's history of "getting high before performing surgeries" and reusing needles ruined his partner's dental practice, the partner claims in court.

Neil G. Dobro, D.M.D., sued Stephen M. Stein, D.D.S., in Denver County Court.

Dobro claims Stein concealed his troubled history to persuade Dobra to form the New Image Dental Implant Center with him.

Eventually, Dobro says, he uncovered disturbing allegations about his partner, including that the Colorado Dental Board had recently "voted to summarily suspend Dr. Stein's license to practice dentistry."

"Among other things, Mr. Stein had been stealing medications from patients and Dr. Dobro realized that Mr. Stein would eventually face criminal charges," the complaint states. "With this inevitable and damaging public disclosure on the horizon, Dr. Dobro proposed a means by which Mr. Stein could smoothly exit the practice of dentistry-Dr. Dobro would buy all of Mr. Stein's dental practice assets (equipment, supplies, etc.), together with Mr. Stein's putative membership interest in New Image."

Dobro says he prepared an asset purchase agreement for this, in November 2011.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Stein is a drug addict and his conduct did not follow a rational course," the complaint states. "Like many other addicts, Mr. Stein has developed a keen ability to detach himself from reality. Although he may have done so earlier, Dr. Dobro later learned that Mr. Stein was getting high before performing surgeries in his office at the First Avenue Property. Yet he was somehow able to ignore the fact that doing so placed people's lives in jeopardy. He was also able to deny the fact that he was stealing drugs from the very patients that he took an oath to protect and whom he was supposed to serve. Most important, he lived in denial of the inevitable fact that he would eventually be caught.

"Mr. Stein's negotiations with Dr. Dobro were, likewise, detached from reality. From the moment he entered into the Cessation Agreement in June of 2011 [sic], Mr. Stein believed that his reinstatement was imminent."

Dobro claims: "Despite Dr. Dobro's November 2011 offer to purchase Mr. Stein's dental assets and his putative membership interest in New Image, Mr. Stein refused to proceed with the transaction and made varying excuses for stalling. Mr. Stein argued, for instance, that his pending divorce barred him from selling the assets of his former practice. Likewise, he insisted that the sale was unnecessary because the Colorado Board of Dentistry could reinstate his license at any moment.

"Sometime in late-November or early-December of 2011, Dr. Dobro learned that the lies coming from Mr. Stein were much worse than he originally realized. Among other things, Dr. Dobro discovered that, when Mr. Stein's first employer learned about his substance abuse, they fired him. But they agreed not to report Mr. Stein to the Colorado Board of Dentistry, provided that Mr. Stein seek help from the Peer Assistance Committee and leave the State of Colorado. Mr. Stein went through rehabilitation after he was fired but ignored his obligation to leave Colorado. Most important, he failed to disclose this situation to Dr. Dobro when Dr. Dobro asked him to disclose all events implicating his license.


"During the same November/December timeframe, Dr. Dobro also learned how Mr. Stein had managed to steal drugs from his patients. Dr. Dobro heard that Mr. Stein would over-prescribe medications to his patients and instruct them to bring the drugs to the office so that Mr. Stein could 'monitor' them. Mr. Stein would then set aside a few of the drugs for his personal use.

"By the time Dr. Dobro realized the depth of the fraud that Mr. Stein had perpetrated, Mr. Stein had not been able to practice dentistry for nearly six months. And it was unlikely that the Board of Dentistry would reinstate his license anytime soon (based on the facts that Dr. Dobro had discovered). The evidence made clear that Mr. Stein was a thief, a liar and a drug addict who would never regain the professional position that he occupied when he incorporated New Image and began practicing out of the First Avenue Property."

Because of these facts, Dobro said, "Mr. Stein could not lawfully hold a membership interest in New Image" under Colorado law.

Dobro says he is not aware of any criminal charges against Stein, nor of any personal injury claims from patients, but he "feared that Mr. Stein's conduct might give rise to such claims."

On Dec. 16, 2011, Dobro says, he told his attorney to dissolve New Image, and articles were dissolution were filed that day.

He says even more disturbing news was ahead.

"Mr. Stein did not regain his license to practice dentistry despite his prior predictions to the contrary," the complaint states. "Instead, roughly one year after entering into the Cessation Agreement - in July of 2102 - the Board of Dentistry made public additional facts discovered during the course of their investigation of Mr. Stein. Specifically, they disclosed that Mr. Stein - for a period of nearly twelve years - had reused needles on patients while administering intravenous sedation.

"News of the allegations against Mr. Stein made front-page headlines in Colorado for several days and the story was picked up by a variety of other media outlets around the country. The front page of the July 13, 2010 Denver Post read 'Dental Patients Warned: Colorado health official says Denver's Dr. Stephen Stein reused sedation syringes for nearly 12 years.' The article went on to explain that public health officials were urging thousands of patients who received treatment from Mr. Stein-at New Image and at his office in Highlands Ranch-to get tested for HIV and hepatitis. Essentially the same story aired on every local television news network and the Internet was awash with angry comments from the public.

"Dr. Dobro's patients flooded the office with calls. News trucks were parked outside of the First Avenue Property around the clock. Reporters entered the First Avenue Property and/or waited outside, looking for any opportunity to interview Dr. Dobro or any member of his team. Reporters also spent two days camped outside of Dr. Dobro's personal residence. Both the Department of Health and the press wanted to learn what Dr. Dobro knew about Mr. Stein's practice of using recycled needles and whether Dr. Dobro had any involvement.

"Dr. Dobro's own patients wanted to know what happened and whether they were at risk as a result of Mr. Stein's actions. Dr. Dobro called each and every one of his patients personally and spent hours trying to calm the fears of people who were panic-stricken by the revelations regarding Mr. Stein.

"In August of 2012, Mr. Stein signed a Stipulation and Final Agency Order to voluntarily relinquish his license to practice dentistry in Colorado. And Mr. Stein's relinquishment has the same force and effect as a revocation ordered by the Colorado Dental Board.

"The reputation and value of the New Image name was severely damaged by the revelation of Mr. Stein's misconduct. Furthermore, the negative attention generated by this news had a negative impact on Dr. Dobro's independent practice - particularly since he serves patients out of the very same building in which Mr. Stein conducted his business.

Dr. Dobro has lost patients and substantial revenue as a result of Mr. Stein's misconduct."

Dobro seeks punitive damages for fraud, fraud in the inducement, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

He is represented by Daniel Glasser, with Chipman Glasser.

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