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Would-Be Doctor, Faith Healers Who Face Charges Were Touted by Radio Host

Renan Almendarez Coello publicized services on his show. D.A.'s office says it is not investigating him or the station.

November 12, 2002|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

In Pomona Superior Court, a man who called himself a doctor stands accused of sexually assaulting numerous women and teenage girls who went to his El Monte office for treatment.

In Van Nuys Superior Court, two faith healers are accused of giving a man seeking treatment for a rash an injection that killed him.

At least some of the alleged victims heard of the would-be doctor and faith healers through radio host Renan Almendarez Coello, Los Angeles' top-rated morning host, who recommended their services on his program.

Known to his audience as El Cucuy de la Manana, the Boogeyman, Coello's nationally syndicated Spanish-language show on KSCA-FM (101.9) is wildly popular in cities in the county with large Spanish-speaking communities. In the Southern California market, he outshines talk-show host Howard Stern.

The defendants, Fernando Lozano, 32, and faith healer Reina Isabel Chavarria, 48, and her assistant, Margarita Montes, 28, were regularly publicized by Coello. The show, featuring music and raunchy interactions between Coello and callers, included segments in which Coello publicized the services of a series of what he called collaborators.

Coello touted their folk medicine approach to treating ailments. Lozano was known to callers as Doctor Misterio -- Dr. Mystery.

Now, Lozano faces 19 felony counts and four misdemeanor charges, including lewd acts upon children and practicing medicine without certification. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial Dec. 9

The faith healers, Chavarria and Montes, face two felony counts: involuntary manslaughter and unauthorized practice of medicine out of Chavarria's Van Nuys home.

Because evidence is still being gathered, and police are seeking anyone whose health worsened after seeing the faith healers, the Los Angeles district attorney's office would not comment on the case, said spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.

The district attorney is not investigating Coello or the radio station in connection with the charges, she said.

The community affairs director for the Glendale-based station, Manuel Villasenor, said neither Coello nor anyone there would comment until the investigation is completed.

"Whatever we say might interfere with the proper authorities," Villasenor said.

But Coello's show, he said, much like the Howard Stern program, is entertainment. The show did not mean to offer serious medical advice, he said.

Coello, 48, has a rags-to-riches story. Because he is an immigrant from Honduras, he likes to help people, said his manager, Fernando Schiantarelli, who cites Coello's charitable activities that include raising money for victims of natural disasters in Latin America.

On his show, Coello told listeners that he had tried out the work of Chavarria and Lozano.

"Dona Reina took away from me a pain," he said in one show this year. In another segment, he said: "Doctor Misterio is going to give me a colon cleaning."

"I have faith because I personally try the product on myself," he said in another segment. "Why? Because I'm not going to recommend to the community just anybody to help them."

Coello did not think that Lozano and Chavarria were licensed to practice medicine, Schiantarelli said. The host recommended them for their alternative-medicine practice, including massages and herbs.

Schiantarelli said Coello never gave out Lozano or Chavarria's phone numbers or addresses over the air. Instead, he recommended them to individual callers.

"His intent was to help," said Schiantarelli. "There was no malice."

According to authorities, neither Chavarria nor Montes had the credentials required to give Roberto Caceres, 54, of Santa Ana the injection that allegedly killed him.

In Lozano's case, authorities said, he sexually abused people in his office, including minors. One alleged victim was a 15-year-old girl who sought treatment for stomach pains.

Schiantarelli said Coello feels bad about the allegations, but "he cannot be held responsible for what people do beyond what he knows."

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