Scammy Michigan Doctor In Trouble After Claiming His Vitamin C Shots Prevent And Cure COVID-19
A Michigan medical spa doctor who has been doling out vitamin C infusions as a COVID-19 cure/prevention is facing federal charges of health care fraud following a raid by both the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services on his offices last week.
Unlike other providers of non-essential medical procedures, Dr. Charles Mok, the owner of Allure Medical Spas (which is like a doctor's office that does botox and laser lipo and Brazilian butt lifts and other crap you always see Groupons for) refused to close down earlier this year after Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a stay at home order. Reportedly, he considered doctors who closed their offices "cowards" and saw the pandemic as an "opportunity to capture the market."
And boy did he ever try to seize that opportunity! Not just to "capture the market," but to scam patients and Medicare, allegedly.
In addition to continuing his primary business in varicose vein treatments (so essential!) at many of the 26 Allure Medical Spa locations, Dr. Mok also started doling out vitamin C infusions to patients at risk of getting COVID-19, as well as those who already had it. In several promotional videos, Mok claimed that the shots could not only prevent patients from getting the novel coronavirus, but that they could reduce "the severity of symptoms, duration of illness, and therefore the contagiousness" in COVID-19 patients. He also claimed that "IV vitamin C is being used in hospitals across the country to treat the most advanced disease associated with COVID-19."
The FDA, however, does not recognize "vitamin C shots" — or anything else, currently — as something that treats or prevents coronavirus.
Mok is also in trouble for allegedly submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for for millions of dollars in services, including these vitamin C infusions and for varicose vein treatments that were either medically unnecessary or did not even happen in the first place. Prosecutors allege that Mok had filed at least 98 claims related to the vitamin C infusions since April 12 when he started offering them.
Law enforcement is taking this all very seriously, with representatives from the Justice Department, the FBI, and Health and Human Services putting out a joint statement:
United States Attorney [Matthew] Schneider stated "Dr. Mok is charged with exploiting the current pandemic to defraud the Medicare program, and putting the safety and health of his patients at risk in doing so. These are serious allegations, and my office is committed to prosecuting any medical professional who attempts to use the Covid-19 crisis to defraud patients or insurers."
"Dr. Mok's alleged behavior goes beyond taking advantage of fears surrounding COVID-19 to profit illegally," said SAC D'Antuono. "The FBI has sworn to protect American citizens under any circumstances and we will vigorously investigate anyone who is alleged to put profit over patient safety or who provided questionable treatments as a way to defraud the Medicare system."
"We are committed to investigating those who exploit the ongoing public health crisis for financial gain," said HHS OIG Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh. "Such actions threaten the integrity of federal health and human service programs and the health of Americans who rely on these programs."
In addition to all of the alleged fraud and definite snake oil, Dr. Mok also did not do too good of a job following safety protocols at his office. According to the employee who tipped off the feds in the first place, at least five employees tested positive for COVID-19 and continued to work with patients. One employee who had already gotten over the virus was specifically assigned to work with the COVID-19 patients. The criminal complaint also alleges that "on numerous occasions, COVID-19 positive patients were commingled with healthy patients, including those scheduled for non-essential elective procedures, in Allure's one waiting room."
According to the complaint, when employees of other clinics said that this seemed unsafe, Mok told them, "If you won't treat COVID patients in the fear that they would expose vein patients you need to shut down!" and threatened to fire anyone who didn't want to perform the infusions on COVID-19 patients for fear of risking their own health.
So, basically, this guy was claiming that he was curing and preventing COVID-19 with the bullshit vitamin C infusions, but was in fact putting patients in more danger of actually contracting it than they would have been otherwise, because of how unsafe his office was, and then was allegedly fraudulently charging Medicare a ridiculous amount of money for all of that — and now he'll probably be treating varicose veins in prison. Clearly, this "opportunity" did not work out all that well for him.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse