Case # 30-2015-00822001-CU-BT-CJC
Date: December 11, 2015
UNITED DENTAL GROUP ORDERED TO PAY $867,000 SETTLEMENT AND CEASE BUSINESS OPERATIONS IN CALIFORNIA
SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) obtained a settlement in a civil suit against United Dental Corporation and its California affiliates (dba “United Dental Group”), as well as its owner Jeong Hoon Kim, for engaging in the unlicensed practice of dentistry and false and misleading advertising. The settlement requires the shut-down of United Dental Group in California on or before March 3, 2016, and an $867,000 payment in civil penalties and costs. The final judgment was entered Dec. 9, 2015, in the Orange County Superior Court by the Honorable Geoffrey T. Glass.
Beginning in 2009, the United Dental parties unlawfully owned, managed and controlled several dental offices in Southern California without a dental license or the necessary permits and registrations. The defendants also operated their business using an unpermitted and unregistered fictitious business name. In January 2013, the Dental Board of California contacted the United Dental parties and demanded that the unlawful business cease and desist “from providing, offering and advertising dental services of any kind in the State of California.” Despite the directive from the Dental Board, the defendants opened additional dental offices and openly continued to persist in operating a dental business in violation of California law.
By evading the legal requirements the United Dental parties unfairly competed with and harmed law-abiding dental businesses by expediting the formation of several unlicensed dental practices without paying the fees and complying with the applicable regulatory requirements that law-abiding dental practices must comply with.
Pursuant to the settlement, the United Dental parties agreed to cease advertising and doing business in California no later than March 3, 2016. During the shut-down period, all operations will be solely managed and controlled by a licensed California dentist. The defendants also agreed to pay $867,000 which includes $8,791.20 to reimburse the Dental Board for its costs of investigation and $858,208.80 in civil penalties that will provide support for future investigations and enforcement of California’s business and professions code.
Under California law, “[i]t is unlawful for any person [or entity] to engage in the practice of dentistry in the state … unless that person has a valid, unexpired license or special permit” to practice dentistry from the California Dental Board. Any person or entity that “manages or conducts as manager, proprietor, conductor, lessor, or otherwise, a place where dental operations are performed” is engaged in the practice of dentistry. Licensed dentists are required to obtain permits for the use of fictitious business names and permission from the Dental Board prior to opening more than one dental office. The purpose of these laws is to “keep the practice of dentistry as a profession distinguished from a trade or business, and likewise to protect the public health in assuring that the relationship of a physician and patient is maintained and that a responsible licensee is in charge of the practice of dentistry.” (39 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 232 [quoting 5 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 13, 14].)
The case was referred to the OCDA by the Dental Board of California, Department of Consumer Affairs, which protects the public from unlicensed and unsafe dental practices.
Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby of the Consumer Protection Unit prosecuted this case.