An Arkansas man who wore M.D. on his name tag and hung an unearned medical diploma in his office for years may be at it again five years after pleading guilty to practicing medicine without a license.
That’s what’s worrying a former business associate of Louis Daniel Eaton, 79, of Little Rock, who once walked the halls of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences identified as an M.D. Those initials were included on an incorporation document last year at the Arkansas secretary of state’s office for a nonprofit corporation called Alloplastic Restoration Foundation Inc.
Eaton’s former associate, Michael Kaczkowski, is suing Eaton over allegations that include breach of a noncompetition agreement related to Kaczkowski’s purchase of Eaton’s business assets in 2011. Eaton denied the allegations and filed a counterclaim against Kaczkowski and his company, which has a similar sounding name, Alloplastic Reconstruction Inc.
Eaton alleges that Kaczkowski had been negligent and had interfered with business relationships. Kaczkowski denied the allegations in his filings in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
The foundation’s initial Jan. 17, 2018, filing with the Arkansas secretary of state listed Eaton both as the registered agent and officer and placed an “M.D.” after his name, even though he’s never been a medical doctor.
His business includes providing services to people who need facial reconstruction and facial prosthetics, such as eyes, and those services don’t require him to be a licensed physician.
In addition, the bylaws for the nonprofit foundation placed the name “Dr. Louis Daniel Eaton, Chairperson” on the signature line of an 11-page document.
Eaton signed on the line, although he didn’t include “Dr.” in his signature, according to the document Kaczkowski provided to Arkansas Business.
The corporate documents for Alloplastic Restoration Foundation have since been changed to remove the doctor reference for Eaton.
Eaton’s attorney, David Donovan of Little Rock, declined to allow Eaton to be interviewed by Arkansas Business because of the pending litigation.
“The reference to Mr. Eaton as ‘Dr.’ on the by-laws and registered agent designation was a clerical error by the law firm (not my firm) which drafted the corporate documents,” Donovan said in an email to Arkansas Business. “They were promptly corrected.”
Donovan wouldn’t name the law firm that he said made the error.
Kaczkowski, who operates his business under the name the Center for Alloplastic Facial Reconstruction, thinks Eaton is once again holding himself out as a physician.
After Eaton opened the clinic in August, Kaczkowski reached out to Dr. James Y. Suen, a professor and chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at UAMS. Suen had previously worked with Eaton.
“I know you have better things to do with your time than hear what new trouble Eaton is up to, but since patients are becoming confused, I need to inform you of what he is doing for the public’s safety,” Kaczkowski said in a Sept. 17 email to Suen.
UAMS released the email exchange to Arkansas Business under the state Freedom of Information Act.
Kaczkowski asked for Suen to warn others at UAMS about Eaton’s new venture.
Suen agreed and just hours after receiving Kaczkowski’s message, Suen sent an email to five colleagues that said he doesn’t recommend sending “any patients to Dan Eaton for facial prosthetics.”
“He is not an MD and frequently tries to pass himself off as an MD.”
Donovan said in an interview with Arkansas Business that Eaton is not representing himself to the public as being a doctor.
“I think that’s totally false,” Donovan said. “He does nothing in the promotion of his business to suggest he’s a medical doctor.”
Eaton also doesn’t tell his patients or referring providers that he’s a physician, Donovan said.
A Fake Diploma
Kaczkowski said he thought Eaton was a doctor. Others did too.
That perception changed after Kaczkowski started investigating Eaton in 2013. Kaczkowski learned that Eaton wasn’t a medical doctor even though he displayed a diploma indicating that he had earned a medical degree from the University of Cincinnati. When an attorney for the University of Cincinnati learned about the diploma, he contacted the Little Rock Police Department.
The police investigation also found that Eaton was writing prescriptions for patients, according to the case summary that was provided to Arkansas Business under the Freedom of Information Act. In the interview with detectives in 2013, Eaton denied writing prescriptions.
Eaton said he attended the University of Cincinnati in the 1960s but didn’t obtain a degree. He told detectives that he couldn’t “divulge” why he didn’t get one.
Still, Eaton said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with displaying a medical degree from the university even though it was fake.
“I never used it,” Eaton told detectives. “I never wrote any prescriptions. I’m not authorized to do that and I didn’t break any laws.”
Detectives said documents from a pharmacy showed that he prescribed “a lot” of antibiotics between 2009 and 2012, and listed himself as a doctor. Eaton said he never wrote the prescriptions and he didn’t know why his name was listed as the prescribing physician.
Eaton also said he had “no idea” how his UAMS badge ended up with an M.D. after his name. He told detectives that he complained about the mistake to UAMS.
“I tried to get it changed many times and they said we can’t do that,” he said.
Police asked a UAMS detective about Eaton’s badge. UAMS said it couldn’t find any forms showing that Eaton had sought the badge. UAMS did find, however, that eight badges had been issued to Eaton with the M.D. distinction since about 1998, the case summary said.
UAMS spokeswoman Leslie Taylor recently told Arkansas Business she had not seen Eaton’s badges, but he was never employed as a doctor at UAMS. But she said that in the 1990s, someone might have been able to request an employee badge and claim to be a doctor without that claim being verified.
There’s now a security system in place that requires an employee to be in UAMS’ computer system to get a badge, Taylor said.
Eaton pleaded guilty in 2014 to two misdemeanor counts of practicing medicine without a license, according to a certificate of disposition from Little Rock District Court. He agreed to pay $1,000 in fines and $280 in court costs and to do 30 hours of community service.
The criminal case marked a low point for a man who spent a lifetime trying to make other people look like everyone else.
Coming to UAMS
In 1990, Eaton, who was living in Phoenix, was offered a job at UAMS as assistant clinical professor in the Department of Otolaryngology. UAMS’ Suen had recommend Eaton, according to a letter that Donovan, Eaton’s attorney, provided to Arkansas Business.
Donovan said the letter indicates that UAMS officials knew Eaton wasn’t a doctor because he was referred to in the letter as “Mr. Eaton.”
Eaton was employed at UAMS as an ocularist making facial prosthetics from 1992-99.
His work at UAMS led him to develop the company ContourMed Inc. of Little Rock, which designs, makes and markets custom-fitted prosthetic breasts, mainly for women who have had breast cancer.
In a filing for a private stock offering in 1997, Eaton was listed as the founder and chairman of the company. The filing said that Eaton oversaw the daily operation of the prosthetics clinic, laboratory and manufacturing site.
The filing also showed that Eaton owned nearly 80% of the company. The startup was raising $1 million and had high expectations for profits. It projected revenue would quickly rise to $26.7 million by 2000 and predicted that the company would have an income of $9.3 million for that year.
But those projections were wildly optimistic.
In 2010, ContourMed had $200,000 in income and a year later that figure had fallen to $145,000. That’s about the time Eaton departed.
In 2012, ContourMed filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and listed $6.7 million in debts and just $165,000 in assets.
The company didn’t return a call for comment.
Mimi San Pedro, the chief strategy officer for the Venture Center in Little Rock, worked for ContourMed from 2001-06. She said that during that time Eaton never presented himself as a doctor to the staff or the patients. But many people who consulted with Eaton called him “Dr.,” she said.
San Pedro said Eaton is “quite a giving person … I know he has spent his energy and his talent helping people who did not necessarily have the ability to pay for the services that he offers.”
Kaczkowski first met Eaton around 2008. Kaczkowski’s business included making prosthetic hands and body parts. After Kaczkowski showed his work to Eaton, Eaton suggested they work together.
“Well, his idea of ‘us start working together’ was for me just to help him for free,” Kaczkowski told Arkansas Business in an interview.
By 2011, they reached an asset purchase agreement under which Eaton would sell his business names, such as Eaton Alloplastic Reconstruction, and work 30 hours a week for Kaczkowski for five years and perform other duties. The price was $300,000, which included Eaton’s labor. Kaczkowski paid $50,000 down and $250,000 was to be paid over five years. After Kaczkowski bought Eaton’s assets, he merged his existing company’s assets together into a new company called Alloplastic Reconstruction.
Kaczkowski said that Eaton didn’t comply with the terms of the purchase agreement and rarely worked the weekly hours required.
They entered into a settlement agreement in August 2013 that called for the unpaid balance owed to Eaton, which was $164,000, to be marked as “paid in full.”
Within three years of the settlement, Eaton and his wife at the time, Sue Ellen, had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation. The couple listed $808,000 in debt and $371,000 in assets.
In the bankruptcy filing, he reported that he was unemployed but received $2,300 a month in Social Security. Their bankruptcy was discharged in November 2016.
Months after the bankruptcy filing, he filed for divorce. It was granted in February 2017.
New Wife, New Company
Eaton married Mary Simpson Eaton in December 2017. And the next month, the paperwork was filed to incorporate Alloplastic Restoration Foundation.
In her February deposition, which Kaczkowski provided to Arkansas Business, Mary Eaton said that her husband decided to go back into business because he needed the money.
She said she doesn’t own any of her husband’s business, and she didn’t help him pay for the startup costs.
The doors of the business opened after Aug. 1 and it saw its first patient in October, she said.
Mary Eaton said she volunteers at the clinic and doesn’t call her husband “doctor.”
Daniel Eaton told police in 2013 that other physicians have confused him for a doctor because of the work he does.
“I’m in the operating room all the time. Quite frequently the doctors will refer to me as Dr. Eaton to the patients,” he said in 2013. “If I go into a long explanation about it, it makes the doctor that’s introducing me look like he’s not with it or there’s a problem.”
So Eaton said he didn’t correct them and just moved on.