Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations

December 2, 2011: El Cajon Resident Pleads Guilty to Tax Charge Related to Her Sale of Suicide Kits

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Food and Drug Administration
Office of Criminal Investigations

U.S. Department of Justice Press Release


For Immediate Release
December 2, 2011

United States Attorney
Southern District of California
Assistant U.S. Attorneys
Peter J. Mazza
(619) 557-5528
Melanie K. Pierson
(619) 557-5685


United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that El Cajon resident, Sharlotte Hydorn, pled guilty today in federal court to failure to file U.S. federal tax returns. In entering her plea, Hydorn acknowledged that she failed to file federal income tax returns since 2007. In doing so, Hydorn admitted that she did not file the returns even though she recognized that she was required by law to do so. During the period in question, Hydorn indicated that she made over $150,000 from various sources, including income from a pension, rental properties, and the sale of helium hood kits that she manufactured and sold under the name the "GLADD Group."

In her plea, Hydorn acknowledged that the helium hood kits were intended to be used by others to commit suicide. She advised investigators that while she anticipated that her suicide kits would be used by the terminally ill, she took no steps to verify the physical condition, age, identity, or mental condition of the customer. Based upon her statements to investigators, it was clear that Hydorn, in fact, had no way of knowing if a purchaser was simply depressed or a minor acting without the consent or guidance of their parent. The defendant sold these kits to anyone who mailed her $40. According to pleadings filed in federal court, Hydorn is not a licensed psychologist, therapist or any type of medical expert; she was a schoolteacher until she retired.

Court records also revealed that Hydorn purposely concealed the true nature of her suicide kit when filling out United States Customs forms. These forms - which are required for selling goods internationally - were falsified by Hydorn. On different occasions she described the suicide kits as an "orchid humidifier," an "orchid kit," a "beauty bonnet," and a "plastic rain hood." Hydorn took other steps to conceal her illegal activity and her undeclared income from authorities. For example, a document seized at Hydorn's residence stated that the GLADD Group preferred customers to pay with money orders because they "don't leave a paper trail." The document also indicated: "I would prefer to not have my name in the check registers of those [sic] have hastened their deaths."

Court records reveal that Hydorn sold approximately thirteen hundred kits to people throughout the United States and abroad since 2007. According to documents filed in court, Hydorn's helium hood kits consisted of medical-grade tubing, a plastic bag with an elastic collar, or "hood," and a diagram on how to use the kit. The kits caused death by helium asphyxiation once the hood was attached to a helium gas source (not included in Hydorn's kits). Investigators determined that these kits were sold to at least 50 people in San Diego County since 2007 and, in 2010 alone, four San Diego residents used the kits to commit suicide. None of these individuals were terminally ill.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Hydorn has agreed to pay approximately $26,000 in outstanding taxes owed and not to have any involvement in the manufacture, sale, and distribution of helium hood kits. In allowing Hydorn to remain free on $10,000 bond, Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal ordered her released on the condition that she refrain from aiding, advising, or encouraging others to commit suicide and not participate in the manufacture, sale or distribution of any device designed for use in committing suicide.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy commended the law enforcement agencies involved for their diligent efforts to investigate and prosecute this case. In doing so, she emphasized that "this prosecution puts an end to the defendant's trafficking in these dangerous, unregulated devices."

Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation's Los Angeles Field Office, stated, "Ms. Hydorn was operating a for-profit business without regard to the identity of her clients, their current medical condition, or the federal tax laws. IRS-Criminal Investigation has partnered with federal law enforcement to stop the sale of these deadly devices and collect the taxes owed to the federal government."

B. Bernard Ferguson, Postal Inspector in Charge of the Los Angeles Division stated, "The U.S. Postal Inspection Service remains vigilant, pursuing criminals to ensure the public's trust in a safe and secure mail system." Inspector Ferguson also credited the efforts of the Internal Revenue Service, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in a successful resolution.

Hydorn's sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 16, 2012 at 1:30 p.m., before Magistrate Judge Skomal.

Sharlotte Hydorn
El Cajon, California


Willful Failure to File Income Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7203

Maximum Penalties: one year in custody and/or $100,000 fine


Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation

Federal Bureau of Investigation

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations

Homeland Security Investigation's, Immigration and Customs Enforcement


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