Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations
September 27, 2011: San Fernando Valley Doctor Convicted of Selling Bogus Cancer Cure to Christians Across the Nation
LOS ANGELES – The owner of a Mission Hills medical clinic has been found guilty of federal charges for selling a bogus cancer cure to dozens of patients across the country.
Christine Daniel, 57, of Los Angeles, who operated a clinic under names such as the Sonrise Wellness Center, was convicted yesterday afternoon in United States District Court. A federal jury deliberated for two days before finding Daniel guilty of 11 counts: four counts of mail and wire fraud, six counts of tax evasion with regard to her personal and corporate income tax filings, and one count of witness tampering.
Daniel, a medical doctor and a prominent evangelical Christian minister and medical doctor, fraudulently marketed and sold a medical treatment that she and her employees claimed could cure many diseases and conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, and hepatitis. Daniel claimed that the bogus cancer cure had an effective success rate of between 60 percent and 100 percent for Stage IV metastatic or terminal cancers.
The evidence presented during the trial showed that Daniel used her status as a minister to create a bond of trust with members of the Evangelical Christian community, an affinity that provided her with a market to sell her bogus treatments. Daniel promoted the product under a variety of names – including “C-Extract,” “the natural treatment” and “the herbal treatment” – through a program televised on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Daniel and her employees falsely claimed that the product was made with herbs from around the world and was manufactured in a laboratory according to the needs of each patient. Depending on the purported level or strength of the herbal product, Daniel would charge her customers up to $4,270 for one week’s worth of the herbal product. She offered a six-month treatment program for between $120,000 and $150,000.
Federal prosecutors presented evidence that Daniel’s treatment did not cure anyone of cancer, nor was it was made from herbs from around the world or blended for an individual patient. Chemical analysis determined 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, according to expert testimony.
During the trial, the jury heard testimony from 28 victim-patients, or close family members of victims who had died while taking Daniel’s product. The evidence presented at trial showed that a significant percentage of Daniel’s patients died within three month to six months after they started taking Daniel’s bogus cure.
According to testimony at trial, one victim who had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer contacted Daniel and was told that chemotherapy would not help. After the victim traveled to Southern California, Daniel told the victim that the herbal treatment program would shrink her tumors and kill her cancer cells. For almost five months, the victim and her husband paid Daniel thousands of dollars for the herbal product. After taking the herbal “cure” for four months and after Daniel pronounced her to be cancer-free at a party held for patients, the victim died. The cancer had spread from her breasts to her bones and brain.
Daniel and employees working at her direction induced approximately 55 victims to send approximately $1 million to Daniel’s Sonrise clinic.
In an attempt to operate the business under the guise of a non-profit organization, Daniel instructed patients to classify their medical service payments as donations. According to documents filed with the court, for the tax years 2002 through 2004, Daniel failed to report nearly $1.3 million on the corporate income tax returns for Christine Daniel, M.D., Inc., which resulted in a tax loss to the government of approximately $438,809. Similarly, 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.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Daniel attempted to influence the testimony of at least two witnesses who were called to testify before the grand jury. Daniel was acquitted of one count of witness tampering.
Daniel is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Robert J. Timlin on December 5. At sentencing, Daniel faces a statutory maximum penalty of 150 years in federal prison, and fines totaling $5.5 million.
The investigation of Daniel was conducted by IRS - Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Medical Board of California.