San Francisco Bay Area Couple Charged with Practicing Medicine Without a License

Santa Clara husband and wife offered laser hair removal and laser skin rejuvenation

Todd and Kathleen Bragg of Santa Clara were arrested June 19, 2018, by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation (DOI). Todd Bragg, a chiropractor, and his wife, Kathleen, were each charged with one felony count of practicing medicine without a license and one misdemeanor count of advertising to practice medicine without a license. Todd Bragg was also charged with a felony count of aiding and abetting the practice of medicine without a license.

The arrest warrant was issued on June 19, 2018, by a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge.

The Braggs were investigated after DOI learned they owned and operated a business called “A Youthful Reflection” on Forest Avenue in San Jose that offered laser hair removal and skin rejuvenation. The Braggs hired registered nurses to perform the laser treatments and allegedly told the nurses that they could perform the laser treatments under the chiropractic license of Todd Bragg. Kathleen Bragg does not have any professional license. There was no physician associated with the business and no physician oversaw the laser treatments.

In California, laser hair removal can be legally performed by a physician, or by a physician’s assistant or registered nurse that is working under the supervision of a physician.  Unlicensed persons may not legally perform laser hair removal.

DOI investigated the nurses for performing the laser treatments without proper supervision by a physician and then investigated the Braggs for their alleged continued practice of advertising and performing laser hair removal and skin rejuvenation. The investigation included an undercover operation during which Kathleen Bragg allegedly offered to perform laser hair removal.

The investigation was conducted by DOI’s Investigation and Enforcement Unit (IEU) – Hayward Field Office and Enforcement Support Unit.  DOI’s Health Quality Investigation Unit (HQIU) and the San Jose Police Department assisted IEU in the arrest.

The Braggs are being prosecuted by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit. The Board of Chiropractic Examiners has been notified of Todd Bragg’s arrest.

The Board of Registered Nursing has filed accusations against the nurses that worked for the Braggs, which can be read here:

ACCUSATION – TANYA MICHELLE COOK-RILEY

ACCUSATION – DIXIE LEIGH HERNANDEZ

ACCUSATION – ERIKA CRISTINA MACIAS

ACCUSATION – CHAU NGOC VU

 

 

 

 

 


Registered Nurse Sentenced to Five Years in State Prison

Kelseyville woman plead no contest to three felonies

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Registered nurse (RN) Athina Cook, of Kelseyville, appeared in Lake County Superior Court on May 21, 2018 and was sentenced to five years and four months in state prison. In March, she pleaded no contest to two felony counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and one felony count of causing injury while driving under the influence.

Cook was investigated by the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation (DOI), Investigation and Enforcement Unit-Sacramento Field Office.

DOI investigators found that while Cook was working as an RN at a hospital in Clearlake in November 2015, she diverted controlled substances, including dilaudid and morphine, which were purportedly for her patients. Cook was sentenced to 16 months in prison for obtaining the controlled substances by fraud.

In a separate investigation conducted by the Lakeport Police Department, Cook was found to have caused a non-fatal, head-on collision while she was driving under the influence and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Cook has been prohibited from practicing as a registered nurse since April 2017 due to her ongoing criminal prosecution.

The California Board of Registered Nursing will review her case and take disciplinary action as appropriate.

The order restricting Cook’s RN license can be read here.


Chico RN Charged with Felony Elder Abuse of Patient who Died While Under her Care

Registered Nurse Allison Joann Guster, of Chico, will be arraigned on June 2, 2017, in Butte County Superior Court.  She has been charged with one felony count of elder abuse following the death of a patient that was in her care.  The charge filed by the Butte County District Attorney’s Office includes a seven year enhancement due to the age of the patient. 

Guster was a night-shift nurse, assigned to care for a patient recovering from surgery.  The investigation revealed that after the patient was found dead in her room early the next morning, Guster allegedly made false entries in the patient’s medical record to indicate that she had been monitoring the patient throughout the night.  Video surveillance showed that Guster had not been in the patient’s room for over six hours.

The case was investigated by the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation, Investigation and Enforcement Unit, Sacramento Field Office.

The Board of Registered Nursing is reviewing the case and will take disciplinary action against Guster’s license as appropriate.

Click HERE to view the Butte County District Attorney’s Office press release.


Investigation Uncovers Unlicensed Physicians Operating Medical Clinic

Man and woman treated patients at a Los Angeles urgent care facility.

Charges were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last month against two unlicensed people accused of diagnosing and treating patients at an urgent care clinic in Los Angeles.

Betzabe Wintermute and Chendri (no first name) have each been charged with three felony counts of practicing medicine without a license following an undercover investigation. The investigation revealed the two had been treating patients and prescribing medications at WR Balboa Urgent Care, 937 South Alvarado St., #1D in Los Angeles, even though neither has any professional health care licenses.

Investigators from Operation Safe Medicine, in the Division of Investigation’s Health Quality Investigation Unit, worked with the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT), within the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to conduct a thorough investigation. HALT Investigators conducted undercover investigations that found both Wintermute and Chendri were diagnosing and treating patients. Chendri also prescribed medications to the undercover operatives.  Investigators from Operation Safe Medicine then assisted HALT Investigators in serving a search warrant at the business.

The investigation also showed that Wintermute, who owned WR Balboa Urgent Care, would hire licensed physicians on a temporary basis in order to obtain their medical license numbers and DEA numbers.  She would allegedly use that information to bill insurance companies and prescribe medications to patients without the physicians’ knowledge.

Investigators found that neither Chendri or Wintermute has ever held a professional license in California.   Wintermute was issued a six-month Interim Permit by the Board of Registered Nursing, but it expired in 2007, and she never obtained a license.

Wintermute has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear in court on May 19, 2017.  An arrest warrant has been issued for Chendri, but he is believed to be out of the country.


Health Center Owner Convicted of Aiding the Unlicensed Practice of Medicine

Physician Michael Zadeh of Encino pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine following his arrest in February. One of Zadeh’s employees, Siranush Mkrtchyan, also pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of practicing medicine without a license.

Recently, two more of Zadeh’s employees entered pleas with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Rebecca Merzlak and Lyndi Loomis each pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of practicing medicine without a license. A fourth employee, Amanda Farrar, has pleaded not guilty to one felony count of practicing medicine without a license. Her next court date is scheduled for October 4, 2017.

Zadeh is the owner of Z Center for Cosmetic Health in Sherman Oaks. The center was investigated by Operation Safe Medicine, a specialized unit within the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation Health Quality Investigation Unit after receipt of an anonymous complaint about the business.

Undercover investigators made appointments at the center and scheduled treatments that required examination by a doctor or nurse practitioner. One investigator was scheduled for laser hair removal without having been properly examined, while a second investigator was diagnosed with a skin condition and was prescribed a bleaching ointment without having received a proper examination.

Merzlak is a licensed esthetician and Farrar is a registered nurse. Mkrtchyan and Loomis were both unlicensed.

The Board of Registered Nursing, the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and the Medical Board of California will take action, as appropriate, against Farrar, Merzlak and Zadeh, respectively.

 

 

 

 


Man Posing as a Nurse Practitioner Charged with Identity Theft

Former Bay Area resident was also charged with practicing medicine without a license.

Chad Brian Litz, a former San Francisco resident, has pled not guilty to four felony charges for practicing medicine without a license and one felony count of identity theft.

Litz was recently arrested in Florida, extradited to California and was arraigned in San Francisco Superior Court on March 30, 2017.

The Investigation and Enforcement Unit Hayward Field Office of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation served numerous search warrants during the investigation of Litz.

These warrants led to evidence indicating that he used forged documents from the state of Georgia and from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, which he allegedly used to obtain a volunteer nurse practitioner position at a Bay Area medical clinic.

Posing as a nurse practicioner, Litz allegedly treated patients, wrote prescriptions and dispensed narcotics to patients between January and April 2014. Litz was investigated following receipt of a complaint from employees at the clinic where he worked.

Litz’s preliminary hearing is set for April 11, 2017 in Department 20 of the San Francisco Superior Court. The case is being prosecuted by the San Francisco County District Attorney’s Office, Special Prosecution Unit.

 


Unlicensed Nurse Faces Charges in Placer and Sacramento Counties

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A Placer County woman faces criminal charges in both Placer and Sacramento counties after she allegedly posed as a Registered Nurse and used someone else’s professional license to gain employment at five area health care facilities.

Lara Noelle Bennett, of Meadow Vista, does not have a license to work as a Registered Nurse in California and she has been charged with a total of 16 counts by the District Attorney’s offices in the two counties.

An investigation was conducted by the Investigation and Enforcement Unit Sacramento Field Office of the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation. The investigation was initiated after an employer noticed inconsistencies in an application completed by Bennett. The employer then contacted the Board of Registered Nursing, which confirmed that Bennett was not licensed.

The investigation revealed that in 2015, Bennett earned over $15,000 from her alleged fraud. The licensee whose name Bennett used to gain employment was unaware that her identity had been stolen.

The Placer County District Attorney’s Office filed eight counts against Bennett, including four felony charges of identity theft, two felony charges of grand theft from an employer and two misdemeanor charges of unlawful use of the title Registered Nurse.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office filed three felony counts of identity theft, three misdemeanor counts of practicing nursing without a license, two felony counts of grand theft and one misdemeanor count of theft.

Bennett was scheduled to appear in Sacramento County Superior Court on November 2, 2016, but failed to appear. Bennett also failed to appear in court in Placer County on October 21, 2016. Judges in each county issued bench warrants for her arrest and she was taken into custody on December 23, 2016.  She is currently being held in Sacramento County and is ineligible for bail.  She will be back in court in Sacramento County on January 11, 2017.

 


Los Angeles Day Spa Closed Due to Unlicensed Practice of Medicine

The owner/managers of Zena Day Spa and three of their employees are facing felony charges in Los Angeles County Superior Court as the result of an investigation conducted by “Operation Safe Medicine,” a task force within the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation Health Quality Investigation Unit whose mission is to investigate unlicensed activity and unsafe practice of medicine.   The spa, which was located on Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City, is now closed.  Print

Fouad Nouri, a physician, allegedly aided and abetted the unlicensed activity of Mikhaiel Ayad Mikhaiel, the spa’s owner.  After Mikhaiel’s death, his wife Reda Fakery Mikhaiel, aka Reda Mikhiael, a cosmetologist, managed the spa and allegedly allowed employees to perform cosmetic procedures, including Botox and intense pulsed light laser treatments, on patients who had not received an examination by a doctor or nurse practitioner.  The investigation was initiated after a patient complained of third degree burns and scarring to her face after receiving intense pulsed light laser treatments at the spa in 2013.

The investigation and undercover operations showed that registered nurses Darla Sheree O’Brien and Jhoanna Maria Gando Pereja, and esthetician Rula Abusnaineh, were illegally performing medical procedures.

Mikhaiel and Abusnaineh were each charged with one felony count of unlicensed practice of medicine.  Mikhaiel’s cosmetology license is currently on probation by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology as the result of a prior investigation.  Mikhaiel and Abusnaineh will return to court on January 18.

O’Brien was charged with two felony counts of unlicensed practice of medicine.  She pleaded no contest to one count and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 5.  Nouri was charged with one felony count of aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine.  He pleaded no contest and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 10.  On November 8, 2016, the Medical Board of California obtained an order limiting Nouri’s practice of medicine and barring him from having ownership interest in any medical day spas or performing cosmetic procedures for the duration of the criminal proceeding.

Pereja has been charged with two felony counts of unlicensed practice of medicine and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.  She is believed to be out of the country.

The Accusation against Nouri can be read here:

The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, Board of Registered Nursing and the Medical Board of California will pursue disciplinary action, as appropriate, against their respective licensees.


Physician and Nurses Face Felony Charges

Central Valley medical spa staff accused of unlawful practice of medicine.

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A Central Valley physician and three registered nurses have all been charged with felonies for the unlawful practice of medicine.

Physician Mark Nazarian, of Fresno; and registered nurses Jaclynne Burris, of Fresno; Crystal Bartolome, of Clovis; and Elsa Ortiz, of Fresno; were all charged with felonies by the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office following an investigation conducted by the Investigation and Enforcement Unit Central Valley Field Office of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation.

Nazarian, who is the medical director at Mystique Medical Spa and Wellness Center on North Howard Street in Fresno, was charged with one felony count of aiding and abetting the unlawful practice of medicine after undercover operations showed that the registered nurses working there were administering Botox to patients who had not been given an appropriate prior examination by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

The registered nurses were also found to allegedly be illegally selling prescription-only medications including  Latisse and Retin-A.  Burris was charged with three felony counts of unlawful practice of medicine, Bartolome was charged with four felony counts of unlawful practice of medicine and Ortiz was charged with five felony counts of unlawful practice of medicine.  Mystique Medical Spa and Wellness Center is owned by chiropractor Samuel Stephen Krikorian Jr.

Nazarian, Burris, Bartolome and Ortiz will appear in Fresno County Superior Court on December 12, 2016.  The California Board of Registered Nursing and the Medical Board of California will pursue disciplinary action, as appropriate, against the licensees.


Clovis Nurse Charged with Multiple Felony Counts, Including Practicing Medicine Without a License

PrintJennifer Steinbach, a registered nurse from Clovis, will appear in Fresno County Superior Court on December 8, after being charged with 29 felony counts. Charges include 12 counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, 16 counts of making false statements in prescription records, and one count of practicing medicine without a license.

The charges are the result of an investigation led by the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation, Investigation and Enforcement Unit – Central Valley Field Office.

The investigation found that while employed at a hospital in Fresno, Steinbach allegedly obtained controlled substances including Dilaudid, Diazepam, Morphine, and Hydrocodone illegally.

Steinbach has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The California Board of Registered Nursing will pursue disciplinary action, as appropriate, against Steinbach’s license.