In 2009, Kurt Donsbach, whose dubious health-related activities have spanned more than 50 years, was arrested and charged with treating patients without a license, misbranding drugs for sale, grand theft, unlawfully dispensing drugs as a cure for cancer, and falsely representing a cure for cancer. The investigation leading to Donsbach’s arrest was was conducted by the FBI, the the FDA, and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. As shown below, the declaration in support of the arrest warrant states:
- in literature and his weekly online radio broadcast, Donsbach identified himself as a chiropractor and a naturopathic doctor. He has no license to practice any health profession in the United States.
- In 2001, Donsbach’s Mexican clinic advised one patient to inject herself with “neuropeptides” to treat arthritis, saying it would “re-program” her body’s T-cells. FDA tests revealed the “neuropeptide” contained a steroid not disclosed on the packaging or labels. The patient paid thousands of dollars for the drugs and injected herself for six years, leading to severe bone-density loss.
- Donsbach advertised he had a 60% success rate with pancreatic cancer and sold an undercover agent a home treatment protocol that contained nimesulide, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory not approved by the FDA. Marketing of the product (Leppin Miradin, a/k/a Fortodol) has been suspended in Europe because of high rates of liver failure that resulted in deaths and liver transplants.
In January 2010, a judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence to proceeed to trial on five counts each of practicing medicine without a license and selling misbranded drugs with intent to defraud, and one count each of grand theft, attempted grand theft, and being a felon in possession of a gun. In December 2010, Donsbach pleaded guilty to 13 felony charges: five counts of practicing medicine without a license, five counts of selling/distributing misbranded drugs, and one count each of of attempted grand theft, grand theft, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also admitted that he personally inflicted a great bodily injury on one of the victims related to the unlicensed practice of medicine. The Court agreed to sentence him to probation, which will include restrictions against practicing medicine and distributing dietary supplements, and possible custody in the county jail. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 4, 2011.
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Kurt Walter DONSBACH, dob 12/01/1935
|DECLARATION IN SUPPORT OF
I, EMALEE BOWLES, DAI Badge #20, do on oath make complaint, say and depose the following on this 8th day of April, 2009, that I am a peace officer employed by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. I have been a peace office for 19 1/2 years. I have been a District Attorney Investigator for approximately two years and I was a Deputy Sheriff for the remaining time prior.
During the course of my duties, I have learned the following information based upon my discussions with the named witnesses or by having read the reports of or talked with other officers and investigators who have spoken directly with the named witnesses. All references to dates refer to the current calendar year unless otherwise stated. All events referred to herein occurred in San Diego County unless otherwise stated.
Kurt DONSBACH identifies himself as a “doctor” in literature and online at letstalkhealth.com. Through this media and during a weekly online radio broadcast from Chula Vista, California, DONSBACH claims to offer “alternative,” “natural,” and “nutritional” remedies for many conditions and ailments including cancer and autoimmune disorders. According to the Medical Board of California, DONSBACH does not have a license to practice medicine in the State of California. According to the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners, DONSBACH does not have a license to practice as a chiropractor in the State of California. According to the Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine, DONSBACH is not licensed by the State of California as a naturopathic doctor. According to the Osteopathic Medical Board, DONSBACH is not licensed by the State of California as a doctor of osteopathy.
Counts 1 – 4, A.S.
On February 25, 2009, I interviewed Ms. A.S. Ms. S, a resident of Connecticut, received in 2000 or 2001 a newsletter by mail from Let’s Talk Health advertising DONSBACH’s treatment of “neuropeptide” injections for arthritis. Ms. S. told me the following: In late 2001, Ms. S called Let’s Talk Health at the number provided in the newsletter to inquire about the treatment. She was instructed to call back on Thursday morning to speak with DONSBACH during the live broadcast of the radio show. Ms. S. called DONSBACH while he was broadcasting and asked DONSBACH about the injections. DONSBACH told Ms. S. his medical facility was making great breakthroughs in arthritis research. DONSBACH indicated the “neuropeptide” treatment, administered in the form of an injectable serum would reprogram the body’s T-cells. DONSBACH then provided Ms. S. a number to call to set up an appointment. Ms. S. called the number provided by DONSBACH and reached the corporate office of Health Advances. Ms. S. made an appointment for treatment at DONSBACH’s clinic, the Hospital Santa Monica. Upon arriving in San Diego, Ms. S. was picked up by an employee of DONSBACH and taken to the Hospital Santa Monica in Mexico. Ms. S. was examined at the hospital by a man identifying himself as Dr. Humberto BARBOZA. The next day Ms. S. was injected with what she believed was a “neuropeptide.” Ms. S. advised that four hours later she felt great and described the “neuropeptide” as a “miracle drug.”
Personnel at DONSBACH’s clinic advised Ms. S. to continue the treatments at home so Ms. S. purchased three vials of the “neuropeptide” at $250 per vial. The receipt for the vials showed an address of 171 Mace St., #E, Chula Vista, CA. Ms. S. was advised to contact Let’s Talk Health for any further vials. From November 9, 2001, to September 12, 2003, Ms. S. made at least ten purchases of the “neuropeptide” for a total of $4,200. Ms. S. provided copies of the receipts for these purchases. The receipts are from “Dr. DONSBACH’s Let’s Talk Health Club,” with a return address at 1229 3rd Ave, Ste C, Chula Vista, CA. Ms. S. continued to purchase the “neuropeptide” for self-injection up until 2007. During the years she was taking the “neuropeptide,” Ms. S. said the receipt for the vials changed to Health Advances USA and then to “Huvika” out of Baja, Mexico. Ms. S. also provided copies of these receipts and for receipts from September 2004, through December 23, 2006, for the purchase of “neuropeptides” from DONSBACH entities for a total additional expenditure of $5,100.
In 2007, Ms. S. consulted Dr. Robert LANG, an endocrinologist in Connecticut. Ms. S. advised LANG that she had been injecting herself with the “neuropeptide” for six years. Dr. LANG gave Ms. S. a physical and ordered laboratory tests. Dr. LANG discovered Ms. S. had developed severe bone density loss. The laboratory tests found the presence of Dexamethasone, a steroid, in Ms. S.’ blood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (hereafter, “FDA”) thereafter conducted laboratory tests on the “neuropeptide.” The FDA tests revealed the “neuropeptide” contains Betamethasone 21-acetate, a glucocorticoid steroid drug. At all times during her use of the “neuropeptide,” Ms. S. was not told the “neuropeptide” contained steroids. Ms. S. was not warned of the dangers of taking steroids by DONSBACH or anyone associated with his businesses. The packaging, labels and literature accompanying the “neuropeptide” do not disclose the presence of a steroid as an ingredient. Copies of the receipts and literature for the “neuropeptide” were provided by Ms. S. and have been reviewed by your affiant. According to Dr. LANG, the prolonged use of the steroids was a contributing factor in Ms. S. bone loss.
Counts 5-10, RANDY ANDERSON
On May 27, 2008, FBI Agent Mark KOLENDA placed a call to telephone number 619-475-9951, a number identified on the internet as belonging to Kurt DONSBACH. In the call KOLENDA identified himself as “Marcus” and asked to speak to “Doctor DONSBACH.” A male voice on the phone responded, “Yes, Marcus,” and is believed to be DONSBACH. During the call, KOLENDA told DONSBACH that his “Uncle” had pancreatic cancer. In response, DONSBACH said, “We’ve treated quite a bit of pancreatic cancer … quite successfully.” DONSBACH went on to say his success rate in treating cancer is “about sixty percent.” DONSBACH furthered said he prescribes a “home protocol” to keep the cancer “at bay.” At the end of the call, DONSBACH provided his email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and told KOLENDA to have his “Uncle” email him with his age, his symptoms, how he is feeling, and his diagnosis. Once received, DONSBACH advised he would “build him a home protocol.” Also during the call, DONSBACH advised “I’m opening a new hospital … (in) Tijuana … in about four weeks.”
On May 29, 2008, KOLENDA had an email sent to DONSBACH at email@example.com with a subject of “Cancer Treatment Program.” The email discussed his ficticious “Uncle’s” age, how he is feeling, symptoms, and diagnosis.
On June 3, 2008, DONSBACH responded to the email titled “Cancer Treatment Program.” The header information for the email from firstname.lastname@example.org revealed a “Received: from” internet protocol (IP) address of 18.104.22.168. KOLENDA checked this IP address in the website www.centralops.net and found the IP address returns to Let’s Talk Health, 3441 Main Street, Chula Vista, California. In the email, DONSBACH wrote “Here is the protocol I would give you if you were my patient.” DONSBACH listed the following protocol: “Super Enzyme Plus – 3 Capsules with each meal, Symplex C – One ounce ••• hour before each meal (3oz daily), Oncopause III – One Capsule with each meal, Healthy Life Protocol – As directed on box, Oncotox II – 1 Capsule each meal, Cando Plus – 1 Capsule each meal, Anodyn – 2 Capsule in the AM and 2 in the PM.” DONSBACH then wrote “I am going to give a copy of this to my assistant Giselle Sallee whose tele# is: 619-917-1819;” and “I do not promise to cure you but I feel very comfortable that you will live much longer and if you can come to our facility in Mexico, your chances get increasingly better!”
On June 9, 2008, FBI Special Agent Michael J. HAVERTZ posed as the ficticious “Uncle” and called Giselle (Gisela) SALLEE. The call was placed to telephone number 619-917-1819. During the call, SALLEE discussed the protocol and advised that “doctor” DONSBACH “treats a lot of cancer patients.” While discussing the hospital in Mexico DONSBACH was opening to treat cancer patients, SALLEE advised that DONSBACH has “partnered with the owner of the hospital who’s a very well um (sic) renowned cardiologist here in San Diego.”
On June 10, 2008, SALLEE, using the email address email@example.com, sent an email to the “Uncle” with a subject of Dr. DONSBACH’s Protocol. The email discussed prices for each item of DONSBACH’s home protocol and the prices for two or three week stays at the hospital in Mexico for $16,900 and $23,500, respectively. The header information for this email also showed a “Received: from” IP address of 22.214.171.124, which corresponds to Let’s Talk Health, 3441 Main Street, Chula Vista, California.
On June 16, 2008, SA HAVERTZ called SALLEE. During the call, SALLEE stated that Dr. HERNANDEZ was the “owner of the Excel Hospital” and that they [DONSBACH’s group] were part of the Excel Hospital with “four floors assigned to us.”
On June 30, 2008, based on information from SALLEE regarding the cost of the protocol and where to send the money, KOLENDA sent a postal money order payable to Let’s Talk Health, 3441 Main Street, Suite 106, Chula Vista, CALIFORNIA 91911 in the amount of $543.06. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service tracked the postal money order and advised that it was deposited into a Washington Mutual Bank account.
On July 21, 2008, KOLENDA received the home protocol shipped via United Parcel Service from Let’s Talk Health, 3441 Main Street, Suite 104, Chula Vista, CALIFORNIA. The protocol contained Super Enzyme Plus, Symplex C, Oncopause III, Oncotox II, Cando Plus, Anodyn, and one box of Healthy Life. The bottle containing Anodyn was labeled as a “dietary supplement” and was said to be distributed by Professional Health Services, Chula Vista, California.
On August 14, 2008, DONSBACH said in a telephone call with SA HAVERTZ that Anodyn was “better than morphine”…”You just have to take enough.” DONSBACH also said he “gives nine to twelve [Anodyn] a day to my cancer patients.” DONSBACH advised that Anodyn was “safe” and that it was “a natural alternative that has no side effects.”
The Anodyn purchased from Let’s Talk Health was submitted to FDA for testing. FDA laboratory tests revealed the presence of the drug nimesulide, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in the Anodyn. The box in which the Anodyn was packaged and the label affixed to the Anodyn bottle do not list nimesulide as an ingredient. In an email from an FDA Agent dated March 26, 2009, FDA doctors Dr. Robert SHIBUYA and Dr. Sharon HERTZ advise: “there are no FDA-approved nimesulide-containing drugs nor has nimesulide been approved at any time in the U.S.” Dr. SHIBUYA and Dr. HERTZ state, the “last IND (Investigational New Drug Application) [for nimesulide] was recently placed on clinical hold because of safety concerns associated with nimesulide. In particular, there have been reports of hepatotoxicity with this drug substance and several countries in Europe and Asia where nimesulide was an approved product has (sic) suspended marketing authorization because of high rates of liver failure that resulted in deaths and liver transplantations;” and “…the adulteration of a dietary supplement with an NSAID, even an approved molecule, poses significant public health concerns due to the possibility of adverse events and drug interactions. These concerns include the potential for serious adverse events such as liver toxicity and gastrointestinal toxicity as well as adverse effects on the cardiovascular and renal systems. In addition, since a person taking a dietary supplement would not suspect that they are also self-administering a NSAID, they could be on a concomitant NSAID drug which would increase the chances for a NSAID-related adverse event. Likewise, the patient could be on another hepatotoxic drug that could potentiate the known hepatotoxicity of nimesulide. For all these reasons, the fact that a dietary supplement has been adulterated with nimesulide poses an imminent hazard to the public health and could result in significant morbidity and mortality.”
In an email dated March 5, 2009, the FDA Agent forwarded a “Rapid Alert” from Sweden. According to the alert, “…nimesulide has been detected in Fortodol, a product marketed as a dietary supplement for the treatment of arthritis and muscle pains.” The alert states deaths and serious cases of hepatic injury have been reported. “Nimesulide is not a dietary ingredient, and the products containing this ingredient are drugs, and are not dietary supplements.” The alert notes “One of the [web] sites offering Fortodol for sale indicates that this drug was developed by Dr. Kurt Donsbach.”
On October 9, 2008, SA HAVERTZ called SALLEE. During the call, SALLEE advised that in order to receive treatment at Hospital Excel in Mexico, money would need to be wired to the following bank: Wells Fargo Bank, 420 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California, account #1992651099, routing #121000248, and Swift #WFBIVS6S.
KOLENDA inquired with Wells Fargo Bank Investigator Terry JOHNSTON regarding account #1992651099. According to Investigator Terry JOHNSTON, Wells Fargo bank account #1992651099 is registered to Centro Medico Excel, with the primary account holder as Jose G. HERNANDEZ. The address for the account is 750 Medical Center Court, Suite 2, Chula Vista, California.
On August 6, 2008, KOLENDA conducted physical surveillance at 750 Medical Center Court, Suite 2, Chula Vista, California. On the door of Suite 2 was a sign stating that the suite belonged to Centro Medico Excel and Premium Medical Services. The sign advised that the hours of operation were Monday to Friday 10 a.m. – noon.
4. Count 11
DONSBACH broadcasts a weekly radio show on Thursdays from 10:00 am until noon. On the radio show, DONSBACH takes calls from individuals complaining of an array of diseases including Parkinson’s, autism, arthritis, cancer, etc. While discussing the diseases and potential treatments, DONSBACH frequently tells patients to reduce by half the amount of prescription medication the individuals are taking and to purchase his products instead. DONSBACH recommends the reduction in medication without seeing the patients and without giving an indication to the patient that they may experience significant health events as a result.
On October 30, 2008, a Thursday, KOLENDA directed a team of agents to follow DONSBACH from his home, 4001 Horton Circle, Bonita, CA. At 0600, the surveillance team took a position from where they could observe 4001 Horton Circle. The team previously observed photographs of DONSBACH from his website, literature and DMV record. The team observed DONSBACH wearing black pants, a white dress shirt, and suspenders emerge from the residence on Horton Circle at approximately 0706. DONSBACH was walking a yellow Labrador retriever on Horton Road. At approximately 0911, the team observed DONSBACH, driving a black Dodge Magnum, California license number 5VSR246, which DMV records show is registered to DONSBACH, leave the residence. The team followed DONSBACH from his residence on Horton Circle, to a Jack-in-the-Box, and on to the Health Advances building at 696 Naples Street, Chula Vista. DONSBACH parked the Dodge and entered the building. Approximately fifteen minutes later, at 0948, DONSBACH exited the Health Advances building, got back into the Dodge and drove to the Let’s Talk Health facility located at 3441 Main Street, Chula Vista, and entered the Let’s Talk Health facility. DONSBACH is believed to broadcast the live radio webcast from this location. DONSBACH arrived at the location at approximately 10:00 a.m. DONSBACH’s weekly radio webcast airs Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. – noon. On October 30, 2008 at 10:00 am, DONSBACH broadcast his radio show from the Let’s Talk Health facility.
WHEREFORE, your declarant prays for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the above-named defendant for three (3) violations of Business and Profession Code section 2052(a) for treating the sick or afflicted without a certificate; two (2) violations of Health and Safety Code section 111440 for selling or offering for sale a misbranded drug; two (2) violations of Health and Safety Code section 111450 for receiving or delivering a misbranded drug; one (1) violation of Health and Safety Code section 109300 for unlawfully offering for sale a cancer cure; one (1) violation of Health and Safety Code section 109365 for fraudulent representations as to the method or treatment of cancer; one (1) violation of Penal Code section 487 (a) Grand Theft of money exceeding four hundred dollars; and one (1) attempted violation of Penal Code section 487(a) Grand Theft of money exceeding four hundred dollars.
The description of defendant is as follows:
DOB 12/1/1935; EC: Blue; HC: Brown; HT: 5’8”; WT: 220 LBS.;
RACE: White; SEX: Male; SSN: 516-38-0442 CDL: M0631762
Address: 4001 Horton Circle, Bonita, California
This declaration has been reviewed by Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas for legal sufficiency.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
Executed in San Diego County, California, on the 8th day of April, 2009.
Warrant to issue:
The defendant is to be admitted to bail in the sum of $1,500,000.
This page was revised on December 17, 2010.