A former (or current?) Newport Beach dentist (or unlicensed orthodontist?) was arrested by the FBI last week for a bank robbery that has been linked with six others by the "Rolled Sleeves Bandit," including three in Orange County. Before Damian Loren Newhart was popped, he'd blazed a trail of theft convictions, prescription drug abuse and allegedly practicing without a license since being welcomed here with open arms in October of 2008.
That is when Laguna Niguel city and Chamber of Commerce leaders welcomed Dr. Newhart, who had moved his 10-year-old dental practice from Los Angeles. Orange County Register coverage of the dental practice's grand opening noted that Newhart had moved to Newport Beach with his wife and three children, then ages 6, 7 and 8. He obviously left an impression with the daily, later writing a column for the paper on treating snoring children.
But the gracious Orange County living did not last long. Newhart between Jan. 24-Feb. 14, 2009, passed four bad checks totaling $41,000 that stung Wells Fargo for more than $25,000, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.
On Jan. 17, 2012, Newhart pleaded guilty to misdemeanor grand theft and passing bad checks and was sentenced to three years probation, 80 hours of community service and $1,380 in fees and fines, jail records show.
Newhart signed a license renewal form on Feb. 6, 2012, that failed to disclose his arraignment and conviction on misdemeanor charges, according to Dental Board of California.
During an investigation by the board's Department of Consumer Affairs, Newhart admitted that he prescribed drugs unrelated to his dental practice to patients, non-patients and "an addict or habitual user (himself)." This included prescribing Tussinex to his daughter but using it himself and writing scripts for himself for Vicodin, which would become a habit, and Viagra. He also put prescriptions under the name of his girlfriend, the probe found.
Surveillance video from various pharmacies in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine and Laguna Niguel in May through June of 2012 showed Newhart picking up prescriptions in the names of non-patients (including his brother, sister-in-law, girlfriend and daughter) for Penicillin, Norco, Diazepam, Vicodin, Decadron, Clindamycin, Medrol, Valium, Ibuprofen 800, Viagra, Soma, Hydrocodone and Alprazolam, according to the board.
Some were for Newhart's personal use and others were sold to people named in the prescriptions and actual patients, but none were related to dental needs or for non-dental ailments that the dentist had diagnosed, investigators found.
Newhart's Laguna Niguel office closed on Jan. 22, 2013, and online records indicate a Newhart Smiles office opened in Tustin at some point but is also closed now.
So many patients claimed they had paid up front for orthodontics and other dental procedures they never received or were never reimbursed for before the closures that a website was created to track the practitioner: The Facts on Damian Newhart, D.D.S..
"When Dr. Damian Newhart abruptly closed his office in Laguna Niguel, California, on January 22, 2013, he abandoned his patients and took their money. In our case, that was $6,525 paid to him up front for orthodontia for our two girls. This site is dedicated to assisting those who were victimized by Dr. Newhart obtain justice and just compensation," writes the site's operator, who offers a link to help with filing a small claim against the dentist.
The site includes multiple allegations of shoddy work by Newhart, but it was the convictions, drug/prescription abuse and non-disclosures on his license renewal form that led the Dental Board of California to revoke his license to practice on July 6, 2014.
Some who have posted comments on the website claim they were treated by him at or next to his dentist stepfather's Newhart Orthodontics in Inglewood certainly just before--and in some instances after--the revocation date. The website operator urges those with evidence Newhart treated them after his license was revoked to contact his probation officer and the state Dental Board.
While still on probation for grand theft, Newhart pleaded guilty on July 18, 2014, under a court deal to one count of forging or altering prescriptions, while 44 similar counts were dismissed. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five more years of probation.
Which brings us to these dates, locations and dollar amounts ...
Nov. 14, 2014: OneWest 1100 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, $1,674 Dec. 6, 2014: Citibank 20981 Magnolia St., Huntington Beach, $3,013 Dec. 22, 2014: Citibank 2710 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, $7,149 Jan. 14: Citibank 1505 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, more than $3,880 Jan. 26: OneWest 1630 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, $1,310 Jan. 28: Bank of the West 19006 Brookhurst St., Huntington Beach, $1,066 Jan. 28: U.S. Bank 19900 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, about $3,000
Someone who saw news coverage of the Rolled Sleeves Bandit, which included images pulled from surveillance video, contacted authorities Thursday saying they recognized him, according to Laura Eimiller, the FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles.
Santa Monica police officers staking out Newhart Dental Center at 3516 W. Imperial Hwy., Inglewood, confronted Damian Newhart and arrested him about 4:45 p.m. Thursday, according to the FBI, whose criminal complaint only links the 38-year-old to the Jan. 14 Citibank robbery in Santa Monica.
Oh, almost forgot, the Rolled Sleeves Bandit was given the nickname after he was seen by witnesses and in bank surveillance photos with his shirt sleeves rolled up in the initial robberies.
"Laguna Niguel is conveniently located," says Newhart in the coverage of his dental office grand opening in 2008. "I commuted for a while after we moved to Newport Beach, but now I can spend more time with my family."
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In other regional bank robbery news, a suspect written about here ...
... is now in the custody of the FBI and has been charged in a federal grand jury indictment with robbing two Chase branches in Los Angeles County last month, including one in Burbank that he allegedly struck twice.