Agents with the Food and Drug Administration last week raided the Oklahoma offices of Lase Med Inc., a former Jacksonville company slapped with a $2.5 million judgment in 2011 for fraud, negligence and deception over phony cancer cures.
Agents seized medical and employee records, computer images, laboratory equipment and the contents of an office safe during a raid July 11 of Lase Med’s offices in Owasso, Okla.
An FDA spokesman in Silver Springs, Md., said Tuesday in an e-mail that the FDA doesn’t comment on “pending, current or ongoing investigations.” However, Jeremy Bain, one of the agents involved in the raid, confirmed it took place when The Leader contacted him Monday afternoon regarding an Internet posting by Lase Med itself.
Lase Med’s blog gave details about the raid and posted a digital image of Bain’s FDA business card. Bain said the agency wasn’t aware its raid was mentioned by Lase Med until The Leader called. He referred all other comment to the FDA’s public affairs office.
Lase Med’s operations moved to Broken Arrow, Okla., from Jacksonville shortly before the lawsuit was filed in 2009, but moved again to nearby Owasso, a Tulsa suburb of about 30,000 residents, sometime in the past six months to a year.
Maj. Mark Irwin of the Broken Arrow Police Department said his department had received “numerous” complaints about Lase Med’s operations during the past couple of years but could do little because its owner and operator, Marie Antonella Carpenter, doesn’t claim to be a medical doctor.
He said he believed LaseMed and Carpenter left Broken Arrow about six months ago.
The FDA raid is only the latest chapter in Lase Med’s last 13 months since Carpenter and Lase Med lost a federal lawsuit in Little Rock over claims it could cure cancer with laser treatments.
The jury awarded Therese Westphal of Tarzana, Calif., $2.5 million in punitive and compensatory damages, but Westphal has been unable to collect a penny of the award.
Westphal’s attorney, Will Bond of the McMath Law Firm in Little Rock, said this week that efforts to collect on the judgment will continue despite difficulty in determining the assets of Carpenter and Lase Med.
In its blog post of July 12, with a headline of “Dr.Carpenter Raided by Govern-ment Thugs,” Lase Med said the agents seized patients’ records, employee records, computer hard drives, medical lasers, other lab equipment used in treatments and “the entire contents” of an office safe, including “rent and expense money.”
“Now Dr. Carpenter cannot perform her treatments, patient appointments must be cancelled and some (patients) may die as a result, as this was their last hope,” the blog read. “Dr. Carpenter’s rent and expense money was in the safe and now that is gone as well.”
Carpenter, who doesn’t hold a medical degree or medical license,
didn’t return messages left on the answering service at Lase Med.
In its application for a search warrant, FDA agents said they suspected violations of federal law, such as wire fraud, causing a drug to be misbranded and a medical device to be adulterated and failure to register a drug-manufacturing establishment.
Agents seized numerous boxes of records, promotional materials, images from computers, thumb drives, various medications or solutions, laser equipment and $7,800 in cash, according to paperwork filed by agents after searching the facility for nearly five hours.
Westphal was 50 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and came across a brochure for Carpenter and Lase Med that promised “Star Wars technology” that kills only cancerous cells through the use of lasers and leaves healthy cells alone with minimal side effects. “I felt fortunate. I wanted to believe (in Lase Med). I chose to believe. Maybe I was naďve,” she testified.
Westphal spent $6,250 for about seven days of laser treatment at the Lase Med office in Jacksonville in November 2008.
At the end of treatment, she said Carpenter pronounced her cured. She testified she asked Carpenter if she should consult physicians after returning home to California. “She told me, ‘As long as you stay away from the doctors, you’ll be fine,’” Westphal said.
Asked by Bond about her condition a few months later, she said, “It (her left breast) was a completely hard mass. The tumor had completely taken over. It was purple.” Alarmed, she contacted Carpenter, who again assured her she was cancer-free, Westphal said.
Carpenter did not attend last summer’s trial in Little Rock, nor did she have a lawyer in the courtroom to represent her or Lase Med Inc.
In a videotaped deposition viewed by jurors, Carpenter claimed that lasers will kill cancers but cited medical competitors in declining to be more specific about the treatments provided.