Unlicensed Body Sculpting Business Agrees to Pay $121K

The Orange County and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Offices have reached a civil settlement agreement with Sculptor Body Molding, Inc. and its owners Steven and Monica Ferguson on charges that they engaged in unlawful business practices and false and misleading advertising at their health clinics.

The filing of the civil complaint was the result of an investigation conducted by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation after it was discovered that the defendants were advertising to perform various medical procedures. One of the procedures was called SculptorBody which the company described as a weight-loss “lipo-sculpting” program.

The business advertised that the SculptorBody treatment provided weight loss and body sculpting through the use of various medical devices and cosmetic machines including laser and ultrasound treatments. Customers were asked to pay thousands of dollars for the treatments and were told the program was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and “Members of [the] Medical Board.” Sculptor Body Molding, Inc. operated five clinics in Huntington Park, North Hollywood, Santa Ana, West Covina and Riverside. The company advertised heavily to the Spanish-speaking community.

The Division of Investigation’s Health Quality Investigation Unit, Operation Safe Medicine, conducted undercover appointments at Sculptor Body Molding and investigators were offered medical services including ultrasound weight loss treatments, oxygen injections, and “fat molding.”

These services were offered by staff referred to as “therapists” rather than by a licensed medical doctor or other licensed medical professional as required by law.  None of the weight loss treatments or health advice provided at the business were supervised by a licensed physician and neither of the Fergusons is a licensed health care professional. The civil complaint noted that the advertising and performance of these medical procedures constituted the unlicensed practice of medicine and false and misleading advertising.

As part of the settlement agreement reached on May 19, 2017, the defendants will pay $106,000 in civil penalties that will go into a fund that supports future consumer protection actions by the District Attorney’s Office.  They will also pay $15,000 in restitution to the Medical Board of California for the costs of the investigation conducted by the Division of Investigation.

The settlement includes an injunction which prevents the Fergusons from operating any business in violation of the California Medical Practice Act and from any advertising that includes false or misleading statements to consumers. They are also required to immediately sell or dispose of all ultrasound machines and other medical devices that can only legally be used by or at the direction of a licensed medical professional.


Unlicensed Accountant Ordered to Pay Restitution

Orange County Woman Claimed to be a CPA

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Elana Mae Mitchell, owner of HB Accounting in Huntington Beach, was convicted of grand theft and practicing public accountancy without a license on September 19, 2016.

The investigation was initiated after the California Board of Accountancy received a complaint that Mitchell claimed she was a licensed certified public accountant (CPA) and accepted $15,000 as payment to complete audit reports, which she signed as a CPA.  The consumer later learned that Mitchell was not licensed and the reports she had completed could not be used.

Mitchell was granted a plea agreement that included an order to pay restitution to her victim and she was sentenced to five years of probation.

The investigation was conducted by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation (DOI). In an undercover operation, DOI’s Investigation and Enforcement Unit Lakewood Field Office found that Mitchell offered to provide public accounting services.  Charges were then filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Mitchell is currently on probation in Orange County for an unrelated matter after she pled guilty to felony counts of forgery and second-degree burglary in 2014.

Mitchell was previously licensed as a CPA, but her license lapsed when she failed to pay renewal fees and complete her continuing education courses.  In 2006, she was issued a citation for practicing public accountancy without a license and in 2010, her license was revoked.

The California Board of Accountancy Accusation and Decision can be read here.


Fake Occupational Therapist Arrested

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Southern California woman charged with felony and misdemeanor counts.

A Long Beach woman has been charged with felony counts of identity theft and obtaining money by false pretenses, along with a misdemeanor count of practicing occupational therapy without a license.

Maria Dna Tan Espejo was arrested at her home in February 2016, after an investigation conducted by the Lakewood Field Office of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation.

Espejo is accused of initially falsifying an occupational therapist license issued by the state of Illinois, which she presented in order to gain employment as an occupational therapist in Long Beach in 2009. When her employer asked Espejo to provide her California license, Espejo allegedly created a falsified license using the name and license number of an occupational therapist from Northern California.

From 2009 through August 4, 2015, Espejo worked as an occupational therapist using the false licenses. During an audit by her employer in 2015, Espejo was asked to present her original occupational therapist license, but failed to do so. A subsequent investigation by her employer revealed discrepancies in the formatting of the falsified California and Illinois licenses which she had previously submitted. The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Occupational Therapy was notified and confirmed that Espejo was not a licensee.

Investigators learned that between 2012 and 2015, Espejo earned wages in excess of $287,000. Espejo also caused her employer to bill Medicare, Medi-Cal and private health insurance companies for treatments that would not have been covered if it was known that they were provided by an unlicensed individual.

On February 26, 2016, Espejo pled not guilty to all counts. She will next appear in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 17, 2016. This case is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.