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  1. Press Releases

Imperial Valley Doctor Sentenced for Years-Long Use of Unapproved Cosmetic Drugs

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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California 

Friday, October 20, 2023 

SAN DIEGO – Tien Tan Vo, a doctor practicing in Imperial Valley, was sentenced in federal court yesterday for crimes related to his years-long use of foreign unapproved and misbranded cosmetic drugs.  According to his plea and court records, Vo injected as many as 178 patients with unapproved drugs that had been smuggled into the United States from Mexico. 

Magistrate Judge Allison H. Goddard sentenced Vo to three years of probation and ordered him to pay a $201,534 fine and forfeit the $100,767 in proceeds he made from his use of unlawful cosmetic drugs.  A restitution hearing is set for December 7, 2023, to finalize an order for restitution to potential victims.

In August, Vo pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts: receipt of misbranded drugs in interstate commerce and being an accessory after the fact to Flor Cham, who smuggled the unapproved drugs into the United States from Mexico.  Cham is charged in case number 23-cr-01926-JLS.

In his plea agreement, Vo admitted that none of the injectable botulinum toxin or lip fillers used by his clinics between November 2016 and October 2020 were approved for use in the United States. This specifically included a botulinum toxin product called “Xeomeen” and an injectable lip filler called Probcel—both products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

According to court papers, Vo used these unapproved drugs on approximately 178 patients over about four years.  Many were never told that they received unapproved drugs as part of their treatment. 

“The public faith in the FDA approval process relies on medical providers adhering to those rules,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “By side-stepping the safety and approval protocols of the FDA, Dr. Vo compromised care and put profits before patients. But thanks to the hard work of the agencies and our federal restitution process, those ill-gained profits will be recovered in this case.”

“Today’s sentencing serves as our promise to use every tool to investigate and hold accountable those who deliberately smuggle and administer products that pose a significant public health threat,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “HSI, together with the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work together to prosecute those individuals who deceive and threaten our communities.”

“The FDA’s requirements help ensure that patients receive safe and effective medical treatments. Evading the FDA process and distributing unapproved drugs to U.S. consumers will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert M. Iwanicki, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Los Angeles Field Office.  “We will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who traffic in unapproved drugs.”

A restitution hearing is set for December 7, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Allison H. Goddard. 

Potential victims related to this case may provide or request information by emailing USACAS.Cosmetic.Case@usdoj.gov.  Individuals may submit written statements including information about potential losses or requests for refunds that may be included as part of the restitution ordered on December 7, 2023. 

DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 23cr1700-AHG                                      

Tien Tan Vo                                                    Age: 47                                   El Centro, CA

Accessory After the Fact to Entry of Goods by Means of False Statement – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 542 and 3
Maximum penalty: one year in prison, fine of $100,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss
Receipt in Interstate Commerce of Misbranded Drugs and Delivery for Pay or Otherwise – Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 331(c) and 333(a)(1)
Maximum penalty: one year in prison, fine of $1,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss

Homeland Security Investigations
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations
Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

Media Relations Director Kelly Thornton (619) 546-9726 or Kelly.Thornton@usdoj.gov
USAO - California, Southern

Press Release Number: CAS23-1020-Vo

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