Forfeiture Compensates Five Hurt by "Holistic" Fraud

British Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
News Release, November 10, 2011

A woman nearly killed by arsenic poisoning and rendered quadriplegic is among five people sharing more than CN$340,000 as a result of a civil forfeiture involving a self- proclaimed "holistic healer" who allegedly promised to bring one client back from the dead. The defendant, Selena Tsui, has not been charged or convicted in relation to the allegations in the forfeiture case, which settled out of court. The client who suffered grave health effects, identified as EL, is asking media to respect her privacy and not identify or contact her.

Based on initial reports by EL and concerned family members and friends of hers, Richmond RCMP conducted an extensive investigation. Crown counsel concluded on the basis of evidence available at the time that there was no substantial likelihood of conviction on any criminal charges. Between 2000 and 2004, Tsui told at least a dozen people that she was qualified to diagnose, prescribe for and treat diseases and ailments, including mental conditions. In fact, she had no formal training and was not registered with any regulatory body for health professionals in B.C.

EL began taking a concoction she believed contained mushrooms and herbs. In fact, tests showed one bottle contained extreme arsenic levels. Respiratory and renal failure, cardiac arrest, paralysis, severe weight loss and other ailments followed. EL was finally rushed to hospital, put on life support and given a five per cent chance of survival. Tests showed severe damage to her nervous systems that doctors deemed likely due to arsenic poisoning.

In all, EL paid Tsui more than $400,000 to treat her and others close to her. Tsui used the funds to help her pay for and maintain two Richmond condominiums that have now been sold. Investigators also found Tsui's boyfriend listed in the ailing woman's will, and believed Tsui was trying to ingratiate herself into EL's life. EL still fears for her safety and remains in poor health, but wanted her story told as a warning to others. Fictional diagnoses that other clients allegedly received included cancer, scoliosis, liver problems and a "large tapeworm." One person was told they would likely die in a few years due to "parasites."

B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture Act allows the Province to pay out compensation to eligible victims of an unlawful activity where there is a direct connection between them and the property forfeited by a particular unlawful activity. The five claimants in this case received a pro-rated value of their claimed loss, since at more than $550,000, the value of their claims exceeded the amount forfeited.

Comment by Dr. Stephen Barrett

The Civil Forfeiture Act has been used mainly to help victims of investment scams. The fact that no criminal charges were filed is shocking but not surprising. Quackery and health fraud are rampant in Canada because the government does almost nothing to protect its citizens from them.

This article was posted on November 12, 2011.

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