Virginia dentists suspended for alleged drug activity in exchange for dental work

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Two Virginia Beach dentists have been forced to close up shop after the VA Board of Dentistry suspended their license to legally do dental work.

According to the summary of suspension, made public on the board of dentistry website, Dr. Gary Hartman is accused of having prescribed more than 46,000 hydrocodone pills, more than 20,000 Soma pills and nearly 8,000 Oxycodone pills, as well as Vicodin, Tramadol, sleeping pills, and anxiety medications, to patients who either had not been seen or did not need the excessive amount they were prescribed.

The prescriptions themselves were not the alarming part for the DEA, the agency investigating claims of misuse: it was the number of pills written to people who agents report did not have appointments or ailments to fit the medication prescribed.

In portions of the report, the DEA found Hartman exchanged dental work for patients willing to be drug mules. Patients told the DEA in interviews that Hartman would fix their teeth or treat them without insurance, but in exchange, they would have to fill a prescription he wrote and hand off the pills.

Hartman was eventually drug-tested by the DEA and tested positive for marijuana, opioids, and amphetamines.

The Virginia Board of Dentistry reports they suspended Hartman’s license to do dental work in December 2018, but documents state investigators believe Hartman was abusing the system well before that.

Listed in the summary of suspension was one of Hartman’s  drug-seeking patients, who died of an overdose in 2017. The report lists at least 22 patients who Hartman prescribed pills to in this fashion. One of those patients was Dr. Arnold Joseph Berger, who practiced dentistry just about a mile down the road.

On February 1, 2019, Berger had his license suspended as well. Investigators said Berger not only filled prescriptions for Hartman, but illegally prescribed opioids to his patients and his wife.

WTKR spoke to the Virginia Board of Dentistry, who said Hartman’s hearing for the suspension of his license is scheduled for May. Berger’s was scheduled for March but will be continued.

Neither dentist can practice dentistry at this time.

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