Doctor selling COVID-19 ‘cure’ sentenced to prison | USAO-SDCA

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SAN DIEGO — Jennings Ryan Staley, a doctor who tried to profit from the pandemic by marketing what he described as a “miracle cure” for COVID-19, was sentenced today to 30 days in police custody and a year of house arrest for attempting to smuggle hydroxychloroquine into the United States to sell his coronavirus “treatment kits” there.

Last year, Staley pleaded guilty to one count of importing contrary to the law, admitting that he had worked with a Chinese supplier to try to smuggle into the United States a barrel that he says , contained over 26 pounds of hydroxychloroquine powder by mislabeling it as “yam extract”. .” According to court documents, Staley also suggested this mislabeling technique to another supplier who declined, telling Staley, “sorry, we have to do it legally.”

Staley admitted he intended to sell the hydroxychloroquine powder in capsules as part of his business venture selling COVID-19 “treatment kits” in March and April 2020, at the onset of the global pandemic. According to the sentencing papers, Staley also solicited investors for his scheme, promising one he could “triple your money in 90 days.”

In his plea agreement, Staley admitted to writing a prescription for hydroxychloroquine for one of his employees, misusing the employee’s name and personal identifying information. To fill the prescription for the increasingly scarce drug, Staley answered pharmacists’ questions as if he were the employee, all without the employee’s knowledge or consent.

Staley marketed and sold its COVID-19 “treatment kits” to customers at its Skinny Beach Med spas in and around San Diego. Court documents say law enforcement began investigating Staley after receiving several tips from concerned citizens sparked by his marketing campaign. According to admissions in his plea agreement, Staley described his products – which included hydroxychloroquine – as a “one hundred percent cure”, a “magic bullet”, an “incredible weapon” and “almost too good to be true. in conversations with an undercover FBI agent posing as a potential customer, and Staley said the products would provide at least six weeks of immunity. Staley acknowledged that these statements were material to the potential client and that as a physician he abused a position of public trust and used special skill to carry out his scheme.

An undercover agent purchased six of Staley’s “treatment kits” for $4,000. Court documents explain that during a recorded phone call with the undercover agent, Staley not only made false claims about the effectiveness of his “treatment kits”; he also bragged that, “I got the last tank of . . . hydroxychloroquine, smuggled out of China, Sunday evening at 1:00 am. . . the broker. . . smuggled it in, so to speak, otherwise tricked customs saying it was sweet potato extract. In a subsequent phone call with the undercover agent, Staley spontaneously offered to add doses of generic Viagra and Xanax, which is a federally controlled substance. At no time did Staley ask any medical questions about the undercover agent’s alleged family members, including the agent’s three alleged minor children.

Staley also admitted that he deliberately obstructed and sought to obstruct the federal investigation into his conduct by lying to federal agents. Specifically, when questioned by law enforcement, Staley falsely denied ever claiming his “treatment kits” were a “one hundred percent effective cure”, adding “that would be insane”. Staley also falsely claimed that his medical practice would get “absolutely” all relevant information about each family member when sending medicine for a family treatment pack, when a week earlier he had handed out a ” family pack” of hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, generic Viagra, Xanax and azithromycin to the undercover agent without collecting any medical information from the agent or the five alleged family members of the agent.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel also ordered Staley to pay a $10,000 fine and ordered the forfeiture of the $4,000 paid by the undercover officer, along with more than 4,500 pills of various drugs. pharmaceuticals, several bags of empty capsules and a manual capsule. -Filling machine.

“At the height of the pandemic, before vaccines were available, this doctor sought to take advantage of patient fears,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “He abused his position of trust and undermined the integrity of the entire medical profession. We are committed to upholding United States laws and protecting patients, including prosecuting physicians who choose to commit crimes. Grossman commended the prosecution team and federal agents from the FBI and FDA-OCI, who worked hard to achieve justice in this case. He also praised US Customs and Border Protection for their help in the investigation.

“Defendant used a global pandemic to exploit public fear by offering a ‘cure’ for COVID-19 and then lied to FBI agents about it,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy . “I want to thank our federal partners at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their collective efforts to bring this defendant to justice. ”

“The FDA continues to work with its law enforcement partners to protect public health by identifying, investigating, and bringing to justice those who attempt to profit from the pandemic by offering and distributing COVID-19 treatments. with unproven ‘miracle cure’ claims to American consumers,” said Special Agent in Charge Lisa L. Malinowski of the FDA’s local Criminal Investigations office in Los Angeles.

On May 17, 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Enforcement Fraud Task Force, led by the Deputy Attorney General, to bring together all federal government resources to bolster anti-fraud efforts. fraud.

If you believe you have been the victim of COVID-19 fraud, report it to the FBI immediately (visit ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov or call 1-800-CALL-FBI or San Diego FBI at 858- 320-1800; the public is also encouraged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or emailing to NCDF at [email protected]

RESPONDENT Case number 20-CR-1227-GPC

Jennings Ryan Staley, MD Age: 44 San Diego, CA

FEES SUMMARY

Importation contrary to law, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 545

Maximum penalty: twenty years in prison; good; special contribution

AGENCY

Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States Food and Drug Administration, Bureau of Criminal Investigations

United States Customs and Border Protection

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