A San Diego physician dialed into his federal court hearing on Friday following his arrest for allegedly selling what he described as a “miracle cure” that could render people immune from COVID-19 for at least six weeks.
Carmel Valley physician Jennings Ryan Staley, who runs Skinny Beach Med Spa, was arrested on Thursday and faces a charge of mail fraud after he allegedly tried to sell an undercover FBI agent a “COVID-19 treatment” pack, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The product included Xanax, azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine and was sold as packs for a family of four that was priced at $3,995. The defendant sent emails advertising the packs, authorities said.
During a phone call with the undercover agent, Staley referred to the medication as a “magic bullet” that is “almost too good to be true.”
A week after the call, the FBI interviewed Staley about the fraudulent treatment and he denied ever saying such things.
“Scammers seeking to profit by exploiting fear and uncertainty during this COVID-19 pandemic will be brought to justice,” Omer Meisel, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office, said in a statement.
Staley’s initial hearing in federal court was held via telephone. During that call, Deputy U.S. Attorney Rob Huie argued Staley is a danger to the public, and thus should post a $100,000 surety bond to remain free.
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“In this environment in which we’re living with the pandemic, with the level of anxiety that the public faces, misinformation is not only troubling and financially dangerous, it is dangerous to life," said Huie. “If somebody is out there with the belief that they’re immune from this disease, having taken a treatment kit, they’re in a position to expose themselves and they’re in a position to expose others.”
Staley’s attorney, Patrick Griffin, argued that Staley is not a threat to the community, he’s a veteran who served as a combat medic, and a doctor in good standing in the community.
Griffin said Staley’s case is “a bit sensationalized,” and that the drugs he is accused of selling to patients came from a licensed pharmacy.
“He had no control if a pharmacy sent him counterfeit drugs,” Griffin added.
Griffin said his client had secured $20,000 to pay a surety bond, and would have a hard time coming up with more because of “financial issues that have put a serious strain on his business.”
The judge ordered Staley to post a $45,000 surety bond and $5,000 cash. She also ordered him to stop advertising, selling, prescribing or having anything to do with the coronavirus.