Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Saturday, October 15, 2005

'Natural healer' charged with fraud (John E. Curran)

'Natural healer' charged with fraud

A federal grand jury charges that John E. Curran, of Exeter, collected
$1.4 million by fraudently diagnosing and treating 354 people.

01:00 AM EDT on Saturday, September 17, 2005

Journal Medical Writer

Federal agents yesterday arrested John E. Curran, the "natural healer" whose practice was shut down by the Health Department in June, after a federal grand jury charged him with pretending to be a doctor, fraudulently diagnosing people and selling them more than $1 million in bogus treatments.

Curran was arrested late yesterday afternoon at his home in Exeter, and taken to the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston, because the federal Donald W. Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls is full. He is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court, Providence, on Monday.

James E. O'Neil, the former Rhode Island attorney general who is representing Curran, said that his client would "absolutely" plead not guilty to the charges. He declined further comment.

The indictment, handed up yesterday in U.S. District Court, charges that Curran, 40, provided fraudulent services to 354 people between January 2003 and December 2004, and collected $1.4 million from them.

It alleges that he led people to believe he was a doctor and a naturopathic healer, despite having no legitimate degrees. In one instance, in 2004, according to the document, Curran paid $2,650 for a diploma saying he had a Ph.D., then asked the seller to back-date it to 2000. He advertised a medical degree from a "school" in Liberia, which operates only online and without accreditation, and he wore name plates that identified him as an "M.D."

Curran, the grand jury charged, told people that he could cure them with treatments costing as much $10,000, and offered a credit-card service to help people pay these bills. In his advertisements, he said he could treat arthritis, cancer, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, infertility, multiple sclerosis and other ailments, the indictment states.

According to yesterday's indictment, Curran used two medical devices that are not licensed for diagnostic purposes -- a microscope that shows enlarged views of blood cells on a computer screen and a device that measures the electrical resistance of the skin -- to convince his customers that they had something frightening wrong with them.

He told people that they had "holes" and "live parasites" in their blood, or severely reduced blood counts, the indictment states. One customer was advised to "picture herself at the edge of a cliff," urgently in need of care.

Among the treatments offered was "E-water," which he advertised as having the same "synergistic healing properties as the water in Lourdes, France," and called it "uniquely charged water wherein the molecules spin in reverse direction and emit electrical energy." E-water, the indictment states, was just distilled water put through a blender.

Curran also offered treatments with machines in his office, such as a massage capsule, an "ionic cleaner," a hyperbaric chamber, and a hydro-massager with infrared light.

Dr. Robert S. Crausman, the chief administrative officer of the state Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, welcomed the arrest and praised the work of federal agencies. Crausman had contacted federal authorities last year after patients complained to the medical board that Curran was pretending to be a doctor.

"I learned just how well the system can work," Crausman said. "Here we took this very malignant individual and we're protecting the public from him."

The indictment charges Curran with 19 counts of wire fraud and 4 counts of money laundering. The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, or twice the value of the property used in the transaction.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of Curran's diagnostic machines and other assets and about $15,821 in a bank account.

IN JANUARY, federal agents raided Curran's practice in Providence, the Northeastern Institute for Advanced Natural Healing, and seized much of his equipment and nutritional supplements. He reopened in East Greenwich and was raided again.

In June, the Health Department shut down his practice, after learning of a patient who had been sickened by one of Curran's remedies. Curran sought a hearing on the matter. But he refused to testify, then cut the hearing short and accepted a suspension.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection service, the Internal Revenue Service and the Rhode Island Department of Health participated in the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Luis M. Matos and Lisa Dinerman are prosecuting the case.

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