The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California announced on April 16, 2020 that a licensed physician who owned a med spa in San Diego, California was charged on April 16, 2020 with mail fraud in connection with the sale of what he described as a “100%” cure for COVID-19 that he said would render customers immune to the virus for at least six weeks.
The announcement of the federal mail fraud charge stated that FBI Agents began investigating the COVID-19 related fraud immediately upon receiving a tip from the public and shortly thereafter introduced an undercover agent. On April 16, 2020, FBI Agents executed a search warrant at the business of Skinny Beach Med Spa (“Skinny Beach”) located in Carmel Valley. As alleged in the criminal complaint, Skinny Beach Med Spa offered a range of beauty-related services such as botox, hair removal, and fat transfer.
As alleged by the federal government, in late March, Skinny Beach began sending emails advertising “COVID-19 treatment packs,” described as a “concierge medicine experience” priced at $3,995 for a family of four, that included among other things access to the physician, the medications hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, and “anti-anxiety treatments to help you avoid panic if needed and help you sleep.”
In a recorded call with an undercover FBI posing as a potential customer, the physician allegedly described the medication he was offering as “an amazing cure” and a “miracle cure” that would cure COVID-19 “100%.” He allegedly also stated that if you take the medication without having the disease, “you’re immune for at least 6 weeks.” The physician reportedly referred to medication he offered as a “magic bullet,” and said, “It’s preventative and curative. It’s hard to believe, it’s almost too good to be true. But it’s a remarkable clinical phenomenon.” He also allegedly stated, “I’ve never seen anything like this in medicine, just so you know. Really, I can’t think of anything. That, you’ve got a disease that literally disappears in hours.”
The FBI reportedly interviewed the physician one week later as part of the overt investigation and when asked whether Skinny Beach has told patients that the treatments are a 100% effective cure for COVID-19, he responded, “No, that would be foolish. We would never say anything like that.” He also reportedly told the FBI that it was “not definitive” that the medication he offered cures COVID-19.
The federal government further alleges that the physician also offered the would-be customer Xanax (alprazolam), a Schedule IV controlled substance, as part of his concierge package, and shipped the drug without conducting any sort of medical examination. The physician reportedly claimed that his broker was smuggling hydroxychloroquine from China to make his own pills, and had concealed the shipment from customs authorities by describing it as sweet potato extract. Shipping records reportedly confirmed that the physician was importing a shipment of “yam extract,” scheduled to arrive in the U.S. in a matter of days.
If the physician is convicted of violating Title 18, United States Code, section 1341 (mail fraud), he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine, and a penalty assessment.
If you or a loved one may have a COVID-19 medical malpractice claim in the United States, you should promptly contact a local COVID-19 medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your COVID-19 malpractice claim for you and represent you and/or your loved one in a COVID-19 medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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