Last May, a nurse at Winchester Hospital noticed an odd-looking clothes hook inside a staff restroom on the surgical unit. She inspected it more closely and saw a tiny lens embedded in the plastic. It turned out to be a hidden camera.
Now, nearly nine months later, a well-known surgeon has been charged with trying to secretly record staff undressing. Dr. Dennis Begos, who was the hospital’s chief of surgery from 2007 to 2017, was arraigned last month in Woburn District Court and is awaiting trial. Begos, 56, is a Yale School of Medicine graduate.
“He is a prominent and gifted surgeon who pled not guilty,’’ said his attorney, Paul Cirel, who would not comment further on the case. Winchester police charged Begos with one count of attempting to commit secret sexual surveillance.
The nurse who found the device on the restroom door on May 1 immediately gave it to a hospital security official. Among the deleted files from the camera, he discovered a photo of Begos and his wife on the beach, leading police to suspect him, according to a police report filed in court.
Three weeks later, hospital Chief Executive Dr. Richard Weiner suspended Begos’s medical staff privileges and reported him to the Board of Registration in Medicine. Begos, who was not employed by the hospital, signed a voluntary agreement not to practice medicine in July while the licensing board investigated.
A similar incident occurred last April at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, which, like Winchester Hospital, is part of the Lahey Health hospital and physician network. In the Lahey case, a nursing student who worked at the hospital was fired from his job for placing a camera hidden in a pen in an employee restroom.
At the time, police charged Michael Mcdermott, 21, of Tewksbury with three counts of photographing an unsuspecting nude person, and one count of possession of a wiretap device. That case, however, was immediately publicized: Burlington police put out a press release.
Winchester police did not publicly releaseinformation on the Begos case. And while hospital executives notified staff about the hidden camera on the bathroom door, they did not offer information about Begos’s involvement or why he was no longer on staff.
“This incident is incredibly disturbing and a severe breach of privacy,’’ Lahey Health spokesman Christopher Murphy said in a statement to the Globe. “The safety and security of staff and patients at Winchester Hospital is of critical importance to leadership.’’
He said the device did not contain any images from the restroom.
On the evening the camera was discovered, Weiner confronted Begos before a dinner for medical professionals at the Seasons 52 restaurant in Burlington, according to the police report. Begos told him he did not know about the incident. The report said Weiner later told police he should not have spoken to Begos about the camera and that he was not trying to interfere with the investigation.
Murphy said Begos’s privileges were not suspended for three weeks after the allegations surfaced because Weiner believed he needed more information to carry out such a serious action. On May 22, the hospital said, police shared additional information and Weiner suspended him. Later that day, Begos crashed his car on Interstate 93 and was hospitalized, according to the police report. In their investigation, police had found other photos of Begos on the camera.
During his Dec. 18 arraignment, Begos was released on conditions that he not commit any crimes or contact any witnesses in the case. He also was required to continue mental health counseling.
The case is scheduled for a pretrial conference Jan. 30.Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.