Hospital wards off fake doctor

He hung around Tampa General, but couldn't get an ID.

By MIKE BRASSFIELD, Times Staff Writer
Published October 12, 2007

TAMPA -- At Tampa General Hospital, the tall, dark-haired man in blue hospital scrubs called himself "Dr. David."

He parked and dined alongside the hospital's physicians and once helpfully checked out a hospital employee's aching knee at no charge.

But a closer look at Anthony James David show he's actually a landscaper.

He has a history of fraud arrests who has lived with his parents since getting evicted for not paying his rent.

Police arrested the 30-year-old Hernando County man Thursday on charges of impersonating a doctor at Tampa General, where he'd been hanging around this summer.

The hospital thinks David never gained access to patients, although he did briefly examine the knee of a hospital employee he befriended. He also acquired a parking pass that automatically raised a gate into a physicians' lot, where he racked up an unpaid parking tab of about $280.

But at a Tampa orthopedics office, police said, David examined one person and said to quit taking a medication. And he gave someone else several packages of prescription drugs, which turned out to be physician's samples.

David is charged with three counts of practicing medicine without a license, grand theft and possession with intent to deliver prescription drugs. Police are looking for anyone else who was "diagnosed" or "treated" by him.

He was arrested Thursday morning a block from his home at 5191 Merrifield Court in Spring Hill, after telling his parents that he was leaving for work -- at Tampa General Hospital. He was wearing blue scrubs from the hospital.

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Hospital officials say he never worked there. They first became aware of David sometime in July or August when he showed up in a medical staffing office to obtain a hospital photo ID, claiming he had lost his, said TGH spokesman John Dunn.

"He was refused the ID, but before we could really run his name, he left," Dunn said. "He obtained a garage pass, but we're not sure how -- somebody handed him one or he took one off a counter."

Soon after that, a pharmaceutical representative complained to the security office about David. That sparked an investigation.

Tampa General found his arrest record, made copies of his jail mug shot and circulated his photo throughout the hospital -- every security guard, every nurse's station.

"We wanted to find him, and find out where he had been," Dunn said.

The burning question: Had the impostor had any contact with patients?

"As best as we can determine, the only locations that he was in were the hospital's cafeteria and the doctors' lounges where they eat their meals," Dunn said. "We could not find any clinical staff on patient floors or procedure rooms or the emergency department who could recall ever seeing this guy around."

They deactivated his parking pass. They haven't seen him since.

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Most of the criminal charges against David stem from his activities at what is being described as a Tampa orthopedic company. Detectives weren't releasing the place's name Thursday because the investigation is ongoing, said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

David befriended several people at that office, police said. He examined and gave medical advice to one employee's relative, telling the person to quit taking their medication. He didn't charge any money for this, police said.

He also examined someone for a knee brace and had the company order one for the patient, police said.

But patients became suspicious when they tried to locate his office or contact him about insurance matters, investigators said.

So the federal Food and Drug Administration got a tip about a phony doctor in Tampa. That's how FDA investigators and Tampa police began looking into what "Dr. David" had been up to at the orthopedic office.

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David, who attended Central High School in Hernando County, is currently on probation and has been arrested six times since 2004, court records show. He pleaded no contest to a felony fraud charge last year. He also has been charged with fraudulent use of a credit card, grand theft and writing bad checks.

Records indicate that David has worked as a clerk at a tile company and as a landscaper. A phone number for Anthony David's Lawn and Landscaping in Brooksville is disconnected.

David's parents are embarrassed and worried for him.

Lorraine David said she and her husband Gregg were surprised to learn of their son's early morning arrest. She said her son had been living with them for several months and had recently gone through a divorce and was "a little stressed out."

She said she talked to her son shortly after his arrest. He denied doing anything wrong.

"It's a very embarrassing situation for us," she said. "People around here know him very well. He's a good boy."

Staff writers Chandra Broadwater, John Frank and Logan Neill and Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3435.