Minister who sold phony cure to dying patients found guilty
A San Fernando Valley doctor and evangelical minister who federal prosecutors said used bogus herbal medications containing sunscreen preservative and beef extract to offer false hope of a cure to dozens of people suffering from diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's was found guilty Tuesday of nearly a dozen federal charges.
The federal jury deliberated two days before finding Christine Daniel, 57, guilty of four counts of mail and wire fraud, six counts of tax evasion related to income tax filings as well as one count of witness tampering.
With the verdict, Daniel now faces a maximum sentence of 150 years in federal prison and fines totaling $5.5 million when she is sentenced Dec. 5 before U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin.
Federal prosecutors successfully argued that Daniel leveraged her position of trust among Evangelical Christians and through a program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, to push the phony treatments, which were marketed under the names “C-Extract,” “the natural treatment” and “the herbal treatment.”
She would charge her customers up to $4,270 for a week's worth of the product, prosecutors said. A six-month treatment program retailed for between $120,000 and $150,000. The high price for the product was justified because she and her employees alleged it was "made with herbs from around the world and was manufactured in a laboratory according to the needs of each patient."
According to federal prosecutors, Daniel fraudulently marketed and sold a medical treatment that she and her employees claimed had between a 60% and 100% rate in curing Stage IV "metastatic or terminal cancers." She also claimed to be able to reverse conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and hepatitis.
The pitch of a unique formula of herbs from around the world convinced approximately 55 people to pay $1 million to Daniel’s Sonrise clinic in Granada Hills.
But prosecutors called medical experts who showed that this was no winning formula to beat cancer. Worse, prosecutors demonstrated with a chemical analysis that the product contained sunscreen preservative and beef extract flavoring, among other ingredients, none of which could have had any effect on cancer or other diseases.
Many of Daniel’s patients died within six months after they started taking the medicine. At trial, 28 victims or family members of victims who died while taking Daniel’s product testified in the case.
One victim diagnosed with breast cancer that was spreading throughout her body contacted Daniel and was told that chemotherapy would not help. The woman traveled to Southern California and was told that her herbal treatment program "would shrink her tumors and kill her cancer cells."
The victim and her husband paid Daniel thousands of dollars for the herbal product. The victim took the "cure" and at one point prosecutors said Daniel pronounced her "cancer-free" at a party held for patients. In fact, the cancer continued to spread, and the woman died in four months.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that, under the guise of a nonprofit organization, Daniel instructed patients to classify their medical service payments as donations. Between 2002 through 2004, Daniel failed to report nearly $1.3 million on corporate income tax returns--or approximately $438,809 in taxable income for Christine Daniel, M.D., Inc.
Daniel failed to report approximately $315,109 on her personal income tax returns for the same time period, resulting in a tax loss to the government of $73,895.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Daniel attempted to influence the testimony of at least two witnesses who were called before the grand jury. Daniel was acquitted of one count of witness tampering.
--Andrew Blankstein (Twitter.com/anblanx)