Christine Daniel, M.D. Sentenced to Prison


Stephen Barrett, M.D.
January 9, 2017

In 2013, Christine Daniel, M.D., who sold a bogus cancer cure to dozens of victims across the country as part of a “treatment” program that prosecutors said was “despicable, cruel and heinous” and hastened the death of some patients, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. Daniel, who operated the Sonrise Wellness Center and Medical Options of America in Mission Hills, California, was also ordered to forfeit a total of $1,277,083 [1]. In 2011, Daniel was convicted of four counts of mail and wire fraud, six counts of tax evasion, and one count of witness tampering. In 2012, the Medical Board of California suspended her medical license [2]. She has also been excluded from participating as a provider in all federal health programs and California’s Medi-Cal program. Her indictment [3] and a U.S. Justice Department news release [4] described the facts of the case this way:

  • Daniel, a medical doctor and prominent Pentecostal minister, fraudulently marketed and collected more than $1 million for 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 her bogus cancer cure had a success rate of between 60% and 80% for the most advanced forms of cancer.
  • The evidence presented at trial showed 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, as she had promised patients. Chemical analyses 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.
  • The evidence also showed that Daniel used her status as a Pentecostal minister to create a bond of trust with members of the Evangelical Christian community, an affinity that gave her access to victims to whom she sold bogus hope and worthless 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.
  • Daniel “personally met with her victims in her medical office, looked them in the eyes, and represented that she had a miracle, herbal cancer cure that could save their lives,” according to the government’s sentencing memorandum.
  • During the trial, the jury heard testimony from 28 victims and family members of victims who had died while taking Daniel’s product. Some described how Daniel urged them to avoid conventional cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, because such therapies would reduce the efficacy of Daniel’s herbal “cure.” Family members testified that Daniel also forbid her cancer patients to take any pain relief medication for the same reason. Some of these patients spent the last few months of their lives in agony as the cancers spread throughout their bodies. The \showed that a significant percentage of Daniel’s patients died within three 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 within two weeks 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 60 victims to send more than $1.2 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 her corporate income tax returns, 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 an additional 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. One of those witnesses, a long-time patient of Daniel, admitted during trial that he lied to both law enforcement officers and the federal grand jury after being improperly influenced by her.
  • The indictment noted that Daniel was also known as Chika Chima, Chika C. Daniel, Christine O. Daniel, Chika Christine Chima, Christine O. Chima, Christina Ononando Chima, and Christine Chika Chesman.

Crime Watch Daily, which called Daniel “Doctor of Deceit,” interviewed victims and noted that Daniel had promoted her services in a “Praise the Lord” episode on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Commenting on the criminal case, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. said: ” “The scope of Daniel’s fraud was breathtaking. . . . Daniel robbed victims of more than money. She also stole their hopes and dreams for a cure. Daniel is responsible for a shockingly cold-hearted fraud that has brought her a richly deserved federal prison sentence.” Her scheduled release date is July 25, 2025 [4].

 

References

  1. San Fernando Valley doctor who sold bogus cancer ‘cure’ to victims across the nation sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. U.S. Department of Justice news release 13-071, May 17, 2013.
  2. Decision. In the matter of suspension proceedings against Christine Daniel, M.D. Medical Board of Califorbia, Feb 8, 2012.
  3. Money judgment of forfeiture against Christine Daniel. USA v. Daniel. U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Case No. 2:09-cr-00993, Filed May 16, 2013.
  4. Amended first superseding indictment. USA v. Daniel. U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Case No. 2:09-cr-00993, Filed Feb 4, 2011.
  5. Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator, searched Jan 2, 2017.

This article was revised on January 9, 2017.