A former Newport Beach dentist—who blazed a trail of theft convictions, prescription drug abuse, shoddy patient care and allegations of practicing without a license—was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison for being the bank robber dubbed the “Rolled Sleeves Bandit.”
For the theft of more than $21,000 from seven banks on the Southern California coast, including four in Huntington Beach, 41-year-old Damian Loren Newhart got the prison stretch and orders to serve three years of supervised release after his parole and pay restitution of about $21,000, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kendall.
Newhart, who got his nickname based on the button-down shirts he wore with the sleeves rolled up during the heists, had pleaded guilty to three bank robbery counts and admitted to four others as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He “demonstrated extraordinary acceptance of responsibility for his criminal conduct by signing a plea agreement within 30 days of his arrest” in January, prosecutors wrote in court papers.
In October 2008, Laguna Niguel city and Chamber of Commerce leaders welcomed Dr. Newhart, who had moved his 10-year-old dental practice there from Los Angeles. He would reside in Newport Beach with his wife and three children, then ages 6, 7 and 8.
Between Jan. 24-Feb. 14, 2009, Newhart 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.
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. That same years, his dental license was revoked.
He was arrested in January at an Inglewood dental office after he was recognized as the bank robber from security video the FBI distributed via local media. In the holdups, which took place between last November and January, he usually distracted tellers by saying he was a signatory on his girlfriend's bank account and asking for verification of that information. He then demanded cash verbally or with a note, saying he had a gun, prosecutors said. Besides the Surf City banks, he hit others in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica—while still on probation in Orange County.
Federal prosecutors say Newhart's drug addictions cost him his dental career, he checked into a residential drug treatment facility for about three months, left in January 2013 and stayed clean for about a year and then subsequently relapsed, getting hooked on booze and Norco, skipping his 12-step meetings and buying painkillers of street dealers in Inglewood.
His divorce was finalized last July.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.