Fake doctors pose dangers to hair removal clients

Catching phony physicians: Those masquerading in medicine sometimes injure patients
A surprising number of people aren’t doctors but play them in offices and clinics around the country. And we don’t mean on TV.
By Damon Adams, AMNews staff.
Aug. 23/30, 2004.

Perhaps the highest profile case in recent years has been that of Dean Faiello.

Faiello pretended to be a dermatologist in Manhattan, operating what he called a skin and laser center, law enforcement officials said. Faiello advertised that he did laser hair removal, collagen treatments, removal of skin lesions and other procedures. Tips to law enforcement agencies and the media led to scrutiny and news reports questioning Faiello’s activity.

In October 2002, Faiello, then 43, was arrested on charges of unlicensed practice of medicine. He posted $5,000 bail. Faiello pleaded guilty and was awaiting sentencing. But apparently he wasn’t through with medicine.

Investigators since have charged Faiello with second-degree murder in the death of investment banker Maria Cruz, who was last seen on April 13, 2003. Investigators believe Cruz may have died in a botched operation performed by Faiello. Her body was found this February in Faiello’s former Newark, N.J., home, stuffed in a suitcase and buried under concrete.

Faiello, who had fled the country, was found in Costa Rica by police detectives and investigators from the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

“Our guys found him in a beach resort. We received a tip that he was in Central America,” said Paul Larrabee, spokesman for the New York Attorney General’s Office.

Roy G. Geronemus, MD, is familiar with Faiello. About four or five years ago, he started seeing patients with complications from Faiello’s work. The dermatologist has treated about 10 to 15 of Faiello’s former patients.

“We realized he was not a physician, and these patients were under the belief that he was,” said Dr. Geronemus, director of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York.

Dr. Geronemus reported Faiello to authorities. “There was little if any response whatsoever,” he said.

At least not until the media brought attention to Faiello and he was first arrested in 2002.

“The authorities tell me they have limited resources. They’re only going after the most egregious examples, and everyone else is flying under the radar,” Dr. Geronemus said.