Federal prosecutors have charged a Michigan doctor with health care fraud after he allegedly promoted a bogus COVID-19 treatment and submitted false claims to Medicare.
Dr. Charles Mok, who runs Allure Medical Spa, promoted high-dose injections of vitamin C as a coronavirus treatment, according to the complaint. As the complaint points out, the FDA has approved no treatment or cure for coronavirus, and there is scant evidence to suggest that excessive amounts of vitamin C is the elusive solution.
The Spa is an umbrella for 26 different outpatient clinics specializing in varicose vein treatment, though its main outpost is in Shelby township in Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit. The complaint, unsealed on Tuesday, was filed in the Eastern District of Michigan.
Per the complaint, in a now-removed video posted on YouTube Mok claimed that “IV vitamin C is being used in hospitals across the country to treat the most advanced disease associated with COVID-19,” and advertised it for those at high risk for contracting the disease.
He allegedly promised that the injections would “reduce the severity of symptoms, duration of illness, and therefore the contagiousness.”
Meanwhile, in another video he sent to staff members to pitch the new treatment, he admitted that the vitamin C injections were not FDA approved, according to the complaint.
When staff members pushed back on administering the phony treatment, fretting that patients already infected with the virus would commingle with healthy ones, Mok allegedly threatened them with the closure of their clinics and loss of their jobs.
“If you won’t treat COVID patients in the fear that they would expose vein patients you need to shut down!” he said, per the complaint.
Allure allegedly submitted 98 claims to insurance companies, including Medicare, stemming from the so-called COVID infusion treatments.
“Dr. Mok is charged with exploiting the current pandemic to defraud the Medicare program, and putting the safety and health of his patients at risk in doing so,” the complaint said.
At the same time he was allegedly promoting and administering the snake oil coronavirus cure, he was also keeping his operations open even while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) had shut down non-essential medical procedures in the state.
In a video call on March 20, the complaint said, staff members discussed the governor’s order and pointed out that Allure’s focus on varicose vein treatments would qualify it as non-essential. The employees allegedly mentioned Allure’s competitors, all of which were closing.
Mok was unmoved. Per the complaint, Mok called the other practices “cowards” and said that the coronavirus pandemic was an “opportunity to capture the market.”
A cooperating witness told the prosecutors that consequently, five Allure employees tested positive for the virus and continued to treat patients. In one case, Mok allegedly told managers not to tell staff that an employee had tested positive, adding that he didn’t think self-quarantine measures were necessary.
Per the complaint, six other employees exhibited symptoms of the virus but were never tested. All of them continued to work for part of or the entire time they were possibly sick.
Mok also allegedly filed false insurance claims in line with the Spa’s routine varicose vein practice.
In a press release, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said he was joined by agents at the FBI and inspector general’s office at Health and Human Services in working the case. Late last week, per local reports, agents clad in protective equipment raided the Shelby township office and removed boxes of documents.
“Dr. Mok is charged with exploiting the current pandemic to defraud the Medicare program, and putting the safety and health of his patients at risk in doing so,” Schneider said in a statement. “These are serious allegations, and my office is committed to prosecuting any medical professional who attempts to use the Covid-19 crisis to defraud patients or insurers.”
Read the complaint here: