In a continued effort to crack down on individuals and companies seeking to capitalize on consumers’ fears surrounding the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the U.S. Department of Justice slapped a San Diego Botox and weight treatment doctor with mail fraud for pushing a fraudulent COVID-19 “miracle cure” kit that he claimed also gave consumers six weeks of immunity to the virus.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are currently no treatment, cures or vaccines for COVID-19.
FBI agents began investigating Dr. Jennings Ryan Staley, a 44-year-old physician and operator of Skinny Beach Med Spa in Carmel Valley in San Diego, after receiving a tip from the public that he was pushing the fake COVID-19 cure. Staley offered a beauty-related services ranging from Botox treatments and hair removal as well as diet programs.
Staley’s “COVID-19 treatment packs” were described as a “concierge medicine experience” with a price tag of $3,995 for a family of four. Included in the kit were hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, as well as “anti-anxiety treatments to help you avoid panic if needed and help you sleep.”
Staley told an undercover FBI agent that the COVID-19 treatment he was offering was “an amazing cure,” a “miracle cure,” and that it was “100%” effective. He also said that people without the virus who took the medication would be “immune for at least 6 weeks.” Further, he 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. … 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.”
When followed up by FBI agents about whether he made those remarks, Staley said “No, that would be foolish.”
Hydroxychloroquine is the malaria treatment President Donald Trump had championed as a COVID-19 treatment during news conferences, despite calls from the medical community to use caution as the drug had not been proven safe or effective for coronavirus patients. Hydroxychloroquine with the antibiotic azithromycin has been studied in Chinese patients with COVID-19. Staley’s kit also included Xanax, a controlled anti-anxiety drug.
“We will not tolerate COVID-19 fraudsters who try to profit and take advantage of the pandemic fear to cheat, steal and harm others,” U.S. Attorney Brewer said. “Rest assured: those who engage in this despicable conduct will find themselves in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors.”