Fayette County

Fake doc allegedly active since '96

Even after 15 years, former South Carolina prosecutor Dick Harpootlian still remembers the case of Dean Alan Willouhgby as one of the "weirdest" he ever prosecuted.

Willoughby was convicted in 1994 for passing himself off as a doctor and performing exams on indigent men and women. The case created a public health scare in Columbia, S.C., among the hundreds of patients he examined.

This week, Harpootlian was incredulous to hear that Willoughby is now accused of similar crimes in Lexington — and that he may have begun performing exams in Kentucky as far back as 1996, soon after he was released from a South Carolina prison.

"So, he got out of jail and started again immediately?" said Harpootlian, the former prosecutor for Richland County, S.C. "I guess he didn't learn his lesson, obviously ... It's the same m.o. 15 years later. It sort of makes you wonder what he was doing in between."

That is what Lexington Police investigators continued to try to figure out on Friday.

Willoughby, 43, of Mount Sterling, was arrested earlier this week for practicing medicine without a license on homeless people in Lexington.

Willoughby paid men $50 to examine their prostates, check for hernias and inject them with what they thought were vitamins, according to Lexington police arrest warrants. One of the complaints alleges he performed the physicals in Lexington as far back as 1996.

After the story broke earlier this week in the local media, more people came forward to say they let "Dr. Dean" give them a physical in exchange for $50, Lexington Police spokeswoman Ann Gutierrez said.

Police cannot yet say how many victims there may be in the case, she said. As police continue to interview people, more charges are possible, Gutierrez said.

Willoughby bonded out of jail Friday afternoon after his second arrest and arraignment this week. He is charged with three counts of practicing medicine without a license, a felony. His attorney, Scott Hayworth, entered a not guilty plea in court Friday afternoon and declined to comment afterward, as did Willoughby's wife. A preliminary hearing is scheduled early next week.

Willoughby had an office where men from the Catholic Action Center shelter and elsewhere were brought and examined, police alleged in a seach warrant. Recruiters were paid $20 for a referral.

On Friday, a man who said he was seen by Willoughby between 1999 and 2005 told the Herald-Leader that Willoughby would meet men at a plasma donation center on Winchester Road and drive them to one of three hotels nearby. That was apparently before Willoughby had the office.

William Bennett said Willoughby told the men he was working on a University of Louisville research study on prostates. In the room, he would instruct the men to disrobe and then check their vital signs.

Then, Willoughby would examine their genitals and perform a rectal exam. Bennett said Willoughby would also collect a semen sample, saying he wanted to examine the sperm count.

Bennett questioned him about the procedures, but "that's what the university wanted" was always the reply, he said.

In the early part of this decade, Willoughby was well-known among homeless men throughout Lexington's East End, said Bennett, who was also homeless at the time. Several used the money to buy drugs, he said.

"It was the money" that kept him going back, Bennett said. "At least that night, I knew I could lay down my head somewhere."

Willoughby graduated with a music major from Ashland University in Indiana. After that, he enrolled twice at the University of Kentucky, but did not complete the semester either time, a university spokesman said.

He went to Columbia, S.C., in 1990 to work as an assistant pastor and began volunteering at a mission for homeless people, where he performed simple medical tasks such as checking blood pressure.

In 1994, authorities arrested him for performing genital and rectal exams on men and women. They found an exam room set up in his apartment and several nude photographs of male genitalia. He had told some men that he was conducting a steroid study at the University of South Carolina.

The arrests touched off a public health scare as many people feared Willoughby injected them with possibly tainted equipment, infecting them with HIV or hepatitis. That later turned out not to be the case, and he may have injected people with just tap water, Harpootlian said.

On Friday, the Lexington-Fayette Health Department said there was no reason to be concerned about Willoughby's alleged actions from a public health standpoint. If a person who saw Willoughby was concerned, they should see a real doctor at the health department's clinic or elsewhere, the director said in a statement.

On Friday, Harpootlian recalled watching Willoughby as he "wept and wailed" in court during his sentencing in late 1994. He was given a 10-year sentence suspended to two. He served about a year, Harpootlian said.

"You'd need a psychiatric doctor to tell you why he would take pictures of male genitalia and put them on the wall or what pleasure he would get out of performing rectal exams on other men. I don't quite get it, but he likes it because he continues to do it," Harpootlian said.

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