San Diego doctor Jennings Staley convicted in hydroxychloroquine scheme

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In March and April 2020, as the coronavirus spread and people isolated at home, a San Diego doctor boasted he had got his hands on a “miracle cure”, according to prosecutors – the hydroxychloroquine.

In mass marketing emails from his company, Skinny Beach Med Spa, Jennings Ryan Staley said the drug was included in his coronavirus “treatment kits”, although the drugs are becoming increasingly scarce. But Staley had a way to get it, he later told an undercover federal agent. He planned to smuggle a barrel of hydroxychloroquine powder with the help of a Chinese supplier, prosecutors said.

Staley was sentenced last week to 30 days in jail and a year of house arrest for the scheme. He pleaded guilty last year.

“At the height of the pandemic, before vaccines were available, this doctor sought to take advantage of patient fears,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a press release. “He abused his position of trust and undermined the integrity of the entire medical profession.”

Staley’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday night.

Claims about hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 have gained traction despite a lack of scientific evidence. How did it happen? (Video: Elyse Samuels, Meg Kelly, Sarah Cahlan/The Washington Post)

How false hopes spread about hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 – and the consequences that followed

Hydroxychloroquine is often prescribed to people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and is used to treat malaria. The drug has been repeatedly touted by President Donald Trump, from the early days of the pandemic, as a “game changer”. Trump’s approval caused demand for the drug to surge, leading to shortages and ultimately affecting those who needed it for non-covid health issues. Studies later found that hydroxychloroquine was not an effective treatment for covid and did not prevent people from getting sick.

Prosecutors say federal agents began investigating Staley after concerned customers alerted the FBI to marketing emails from Skinny Beach Med Spa. The company advertised “world-class beauty innovations at affordable prices,” according to court documents, and offered services including Botox, fat transfer, hair removal and tattoo removal.

The covid treatment kit included a 30-day ‘concierge medical experience’, intravenous drips, access to medical hyperbaric oxygen (at an additional cost) and prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and anti-anxiety medications , according to the records.

In late March 2020, an undercover officer responded to one of the emails and inquired about the treatment kit, investigators said. When Staley and the agent spoke on the phone soon after, the doctor falsely claimed hydroxychloroquine was a ‘magic bullet’ and an ‘incredible cure’ that would protect someone against covid for at least six weeks. , according to court records.

“It’s preventative and curative,” Staley told the undercover officer, according to court documents. “It’s hard to believe, it’s almost too good to be true. But it is a remarkable clinical phenomenon.

He added that the virus “literally disappears within hours” after a person takes Drugs.

Asked by the agent if the drug was a ‘guaranteed’ cure for covid, Staley said yes, but clarified that ‘there are always exceptions’ and ‘there are no guarantees in life,” according to court records.

During the call, Staley also explained to the agent how he sources hydroxychloroquine. He said he “smuggled the last tank of hydroxychloroquine out of China,” records show, and “fooled customs” by labeling the barrel as “sweet potato extract.” He added that the powder was enough to make 8,000 doses in gelatin capsules.

Staley then offered the officer prescriptions for generic versions of Viagra and Xanax, a federally controlled substance, although he never asked her “any medical questions,” prosecutors said. The agent ordered six kits – enough for him and five members of his family – for $4,000, according to court documents.

A Florida man has received millions in coronavirus aid. He used it to buy a Lamborghini, prosecutors say.

Staley was indicted in mid-April 2020 and pleaded guilty in July 2021. As part of his plea deal, Staley also admitted impersonating one of his employees to fill a prescription for hydroxychloroquine to then use it in his kits, prosecutors said. And he accepted the charges of lying to federal agents during the investigation.

“Dr. Staley has offered a ‘quick fix’ – a guaranteed cure for COVID-19 to people in fear during a global pandemic,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner said in a statement. press when Staley pleaded guilty. “Today Dr Staley admitted it was all a lie as part of a quick money scam.”

As part of his sentencing on Friday, Staley was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and return the $4,000 the federal agent paid for his family’s kit. He also had to hand over “more than 4,500 tablets of various pharmaceutical drugs, several packets of empty pill capsules and a manual capsule-filling machine,” prosecutors said.

According to California medical board records, Staley’s license was temporarily suspended by court order.

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