A San Fernando Valley doctor and evangelical minister who federal prosecutors said used bogus herbal medications to offer false hope to dozens of people suffering from diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's was found guilty Tuesday of nearly a dozen federal charges.
Twenty-eight victims or family members of victims who died while taking the products testified against Christine Daniel, 57, who was found guilty Tuesday on four counts of mail and wire fraud, six counts of tax evasion related to income tax filings as well as one count of witness tampering.
Daniel faces a maximum sentence of 150 years in federal prison and fines totaling $5.5 million. She is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 5 in federal court in Los Angeles.
Federal prosecutors successfully argued that Daniel leveraged her position of trust among evangelical Christians and through a program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network to push the phony treatments, which were marketed under the names C-Extract, "the natural treatment" and "the herbal treatment."
Some of the medications, prosecutors said, contained nothing more exotic than sunscreen preservatives and beef extract.
Daniel charged her customers up to $4,270 for a week's worth of the product while a six-month treatment program retailed for $120,000 to $150,000, prosecutors said. The high price for the product was justified because she and her employees alleged that it was "made with herbs from around the world and was manufactured in a laboratory according to the needs of each patient."
According to federal prosecutors, Daniel fraudulently marketed and sold a medical treatment that she and her employees claimed had a 60% to 100% rate in curing Stage 4 "metastatic or terminal cancers." She also claimed to be able to reverse conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and hepatitis.
"These are some of the most vulnerable victims in society. Most of these victims were dying, most of them were terminal cancer patients. Most of them only had been given a few months to live. Some had small children," Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Johns said.
Daniel "stepped into the breach and took everything they had, including their time. Instead of spending their final days with their families, they spent it some flea-ridden motel drinking her foul treatment," Johns said.
Neither Daniel nor her attorneys could be reached for comment.
The pitch of a unique formula of herbs from around the world convinced about 55 people to pay $1 million to Daniel's Sonrise clinic in Granada Hills, prosecutors said. A chemical analysis showed most of the products would have been ineffective against cancer or other ailments.
One victim who was diagnosed with breast cancer that was spreading through her body contacted Daniel and was told that chemotherapy would not help. The woman traveled to Southern California and was told that her herbal treatment program "would shrink her tumors and kill her cancer cells."
The victim and her husband paid Daniel thousands of dollars for the herbal product. The victim took the "cure" and at one point prosecutors said Daniel pronounced her "cancer-free" at a party held for patients. In fact, the cancer continued to spread and the woman died in four months.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that, under the guise of a nonprofit organization, Daniel instructed patients to classify their medical service payments as donations. From 2002 through 2004, Daniel failed to report nearly $1.3 million on corporate income tax returns — or about $438,809 in taxable income for Christine Daniel, M.D., Inc.
Daniel failed to report about $315,109 on her personal income tax returns for the same time period, resulting in a tax loss to the government of $73,895.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Daniel attempted to influence the testimony of at least two witnesses who were called before the grand jury. Daniel was acquitted of one count of witness tampering.