By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — After the city shut her practice down in December, a Lawrence woman was formally arraigned yesterday for illegally posing as a dentist — a public health crime.
Maira Josefina Villanueva, 43, who previously saw as many as 30 patients daily at her 273 Prospect St. dental office, was released on personal recognizance after her arraignment in Lawrence District Court.
At the request of prosecutor Kim Gillespie, Judge Kevin Gaffney barred Villanueva from practicing dentistry “unless she is licensed to do so.”
If she does practice dentistry without a license or is arrested for another crime, Villanueva can now be held in jail for up to 60 days while her criminal case is pending, Gaffney warned.
Villanueva’s practice, where patients sat in lawn chairs set up in a waiting room prior to their appointments, was closed down in early December after local and federal detectives stumbled upon the office during an unrelated narcotics investigation.
At that time, Villanueva claimed to be a doctor in her native country, the Dominican Republic, and said she was licensed there in 1997. She came to the United States in 2001 but never obtained proper dental licensing here. She told officer William Olivieri she had opened the dental office because she had an infant and needed money.
Police who initially investigated the discovery of her dental office were never able to substantiate that Villanueva was a doctor in the Dominican Republic. Drug detectives were initially suspicious of 273 Prospect St. because they thought it was a drug stash house, according to police reports.
She told police she handled minor toothaches, filled cavities, tightened braces, changed crowns and more in the office. However, Villanueva she did not pull teeth because she was not licensed to do so.
If convicted of the public health crime of posing a dentist, Villanueva faces up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Her defense attorney, Alex Cain of Andover, declined to comment on the case.
Villanueva is due back in court on April 22.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.