Surgeon lands in trouble again
By MIKE BRASSFIELD
ST. PETERSBURG -- Plastic surgeon Daniel J. Callahan lost his Florida medical license seven years ago after he was accused of taking sexual advantage of his patients.
Lately, investigators say, he has been running a business called "Escape to Beauty," which offers the promise of "affordable plastic surgery vacations" in Mexico.
The authorities have problems with that, too.
Late Friday afternoon, Callahan was arrested when his plane touched down at Albert Whitted Airport, bringing his latest three patients back from Cozumel, Mexico.
The charge: practicing medicine without a license. Police say Callahan, a pilot, flies patients from St. Petersburg to Mexico and operates on them overseas. Although Callahan doesn't operate on his patients in this state, police say he has consulted with patients and received payments while in Florida, where he cannot practice.
Callahan, 56, was led away in handcuffs, and remained in a Pinellas County jail cell Friday night. He was being held in lieu of $300,000 bail. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office seized his six-seat plane as evidence.
Friday's arrest was the latest episode in the long, strange saga of Callahan, who once had a thriving St. Petersburg plastic surgery business.
It's unclear what will happen to him now.
"I really can't comment on the charges at this point," said Callahan's St. Petersburg attorney, Thomas Wadley.
The Sheriff's Office arrested Callahan after an undercover investigation, said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha. Detectives also got information from former patients of Callahan's and from the Florida Department of Health.
Lawyers attempting to get money out of Callahan had long complained that he was running an illegal international plastic surgery business out of the St. Petersburg waterfront home that he shared with his wife, former WTOG-Ch. 44 news anchor Barbara Callahan.
Legal motions filed in Pinellas County civil court have accused both Callahans of operating "Escape to Beauty," which offers $1,000 tummy tucks and $3,500 breast enhancements in Mexico. Court documents have described an 800 number advertised in the Yellow Pages that led callers to a telephone at the Callahans' home on Coffee Pot Bayou.
Callahan closed his St. Petersburg medical practice in 1992 amid accusations from former employees that he made sexual advances and forced them to watch while patients performed oral sex on him.
The surgeon gave up his Florida medical license in 1995, saying he was tired of fighting state charges that he offered to trade operations for sex.
In 1995, he began performing plastic surgery in the Bahamas and, later, Mexico. Although Callahan is banned from practicing medicine in Florida, state health officials said there was nothing improper about him advertising for patients here.
Five former employees sued Callahan, saying he had sexually and emotionally abused them. The employees won more than $20-million in trials where Callahan didn't show up to contest.
Collecting the money turned out to be a challenge, setting in motion a long legal battle. A lawyer representing Callahan's former employees alleged that Callahan was hiding his assets.
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