‘I've Been Duped': Disabled Veteran Says He Spent Thousands at Health Center With No Improvement

"I've been duped. That's the first thing I thought ... I've been taken," he said.

Stephanie Burnette reached out to us after our first I-Team report about an expensive nerve treatment marketed to seniors. She says she and her husband still owe thousands of dollars for treatment they say didn't work for them. 

While she and her husband both have neuropathy, Carlos Dominguez does not. This was confirmed by his neurologist in June and again in August.

But after his visit to Superior Health Centers in Aug. 2019, Dominguez says he didn't know what to think. 

"They tell me they're going to put me through treatment to cure me," he said. 

The disabled veteran says he was drawn to Superior Health Centers by an invitation offering a free dinner and the promise of stem cell treatments. 

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"That's what I keep hearing is going to help people who have arthritis, which is what I have in my knee," Dominguez said of stem cells. 


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To his surprise, he says they also told him he had the debilitating nerve condition called neuropathy and Superior Health warned of dire consequences. 

"He told me that later on you could basically have an amputation whether it be your toes or your feet ... so how are you feeling? Of course I'm scared," he said. 

Dominguez said Superior Health bombarded him with paperwork — he showed us the documents and pointed out more than a dozen places he had to initial and sign. 

"They keep shoving one after another after another. They don't even give you a chance to stop and you know, get your thoughts straight." 

When it was all said and done, Dominguez had signed up for 2 1/2 months treatment at a cost of $15,602. 

The financing was arranged by Superior Health and none of the treatment costs were covered by insurance. Dominguez's neurologist confirmed after his visit with Superior that he does not have neuropathy.

And what about the promise of stem cells? Dominguez showed us a document which says Superior Health uses "human umbilical cord tissue." 

"The tissue has no stem cells or anything that could play any role in regenerating damaged organs or tissues or anything," Kevin McCormack, a spokesman for California Institute for Regenerative Medicine said. 

A local chiropractic company is accused of using scare tactics and aggressive marketing to dupe patients into a treatment plan that doesn't work. Carolyn Johnson and the I-Team report for NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, August 14, 2019.

CIRM is the state agency that funds stem cell research. McCormack warns many clinics are making big promises with no scientific proof. 

"Long term it doesn't work, it doesn't repair the damage, it doesn't restore functions. It doesn't do anything. The only thing it improves is the bank account of these clinics," he said. 

Chiropractor Philip Straw first came to the NBCLA I-Team's attention when viewers reached out to our investigative unit with complaints about the neuropathy treatment they received from Optimal Health/Straw Chiropractic. The I-Team started asking questions late last year. We were told in January that the business was closing its doors, but they appear to have reopened as Superior Health Centers — where Carlos went. 

For example, Straw is seen in television commercials advertising neuropathy treatment. When we've called the number displayed on the commercial, it connects to Superior Health Centers. 

NBCLA has tried unsuccessfully to reach Straw and an attorney for Superior Health for comment. 

Following an NBCLA I-Team investigation, more patients have come forward saying they also paid thousands of dollars for help from a SoCal chiropractic firm. Carolyn Johnson reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019.

But in a previously issued statement, the attorney wrote: 

"Philip Straw is neither practicing at the facility nor is he a professional tenant of Superior Health Centers ... While patients acknowledge that there is no guaranty that they will improve from the treatment, many patients report significant improvement." 

When Dominguez heard patient Michele Botts in our first I-Team report, he said her words resonated with him. 

"I go, oh boy. I've been duped. That's the first thing I thought ... I've been taken," he said. 

Taken for thousands of dollars and left, he says, with no improvement and no hope. 

Dominguez never received any stem cell treatments. Instead, he says he told Superior Health he wanted out of his contract and cleared of his financial obligation. He says Superior has not agreed to that. 

Consumers can contact the California Chiropractic Examiners Board online here or call 916-263-5355 to speak with someone.

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