Quack Device Operators Arrested for
Practicing Medicine without a License

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In 2009, the Polk County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office (PSCO) charged 68-year-old Enrique Vela-Lopez, and his wife, 56-year-old Ute Marquez with practicing medicine without a license. The couple operates the Alternative Therapy Center at their home in Winter Haven, Florida. Vela-Lopez, who is licensed as a massage therapist, is a Spanish citizen who is living in the United States with a Lawful Permanent Residence card (“Green Card”). Marquez was born in Germany. Vela was charged with four counts each of unlawful practice of medicine and unlawful practice of a healthcare professional. Marquez was charged with three counts of each. Under Florida law, both offenses are third-degree felonies [1].

Florida Department of Health investigators contacted PCSO detectives in November 2008 regarding an anonymous complaint alleging that the couple were practicing medicine without a license. They were also alleged to have made medical “diagnoses” prescribed “treatment,” and used a device called the Asyra System. Citing an article on Quackwatch, the PCSO called it a quack device [1].

Undercover Operation

Two detectives, acting in an undercover capacity, visited the Alternative Therapy Center, seeking assistance for various alleged medical concerns. The detectives were given physical examinations, tested with the Ayra device, and "treated" with spinal adjustments, dietary supplements, and herbs.

The first detective was asked to strip to her underwear on two separate occasions. During the first appointment, Vela-Lopez pressed on her lower back, and stomach area, pulled on her skin, slapped various parts of her body, and touched and pushed other parts of her body. Vela advised the detective that she had inflammation, that her body was full of toxins, and that she had parasites in her intestines. He told the detective that she needed to be screened using the Asyra device and warned that if she did nothing, she could die from the parasites. Later in the day Marques "tested" the detective with the Asyra machine and said she had hookworm larvae, bilharziasis (a parasitic disease), an intestinal fluke in her small intestine, and bacteria and anthrax in her body. She was prescribed Probionic, amino acids, Diaverm, Bacteria, and Bio Comerercet 2 to fight the infestations of bacteria. The remedies cost $97. The “treatment” with Vela-Lopez cost $80. The total bill for that day was $302. On another visit, Marquez performed the Asyra testing again and advised the detective that she had greatly improved, but had enzyme deficiencies in her intestinal tract. She was prescribed Protease and Prodophilus FOS, which cost approximately $63. The Asyra test cost $125 [1].

The other detective completed a questionnaire and mentioned he had pains in his kidney area. During this visit, Vela placed his hand on the detective’s lower spine and asked whether he had pain. Vela-Lopez also felt the detective’s stomach area and applied pressure to the soles of his feet. During this visit, Vela told the detective that he was a doctor of homeopathic medicine. He advised the detective that he needed to see a radiologist and have a CAT scan. He advised that he was concerned that the detective had a serious medical condition and mentioned cancer. The detective asked Vela-Lopez if he was diagnosed with cancer whether or not Vela-Lopez could treat him. Vela advised that he has healed many people in the early stages of cancer. Vela asked the detective to bring back the results of the CAT scan at a follow-up appointment. During the second appointment, Vela-Lopez had Marquez run the Asyra system. Marquez advised that everything appeared normal, but then Vela-Lopez entered the room and advised Marquez that the detective had complained of diarrhea. Marquez then typed the word “diarrhea” into the Asyra system software and the word “pancreas” popped up on the screen. Marquez told male detective that he had problems with his pancreas due to his diet. She also advised that it appeared that he had an exposure to radiation, according to the test results. She then diagnosed him with having skin problems (i.e. connective tissue), sinus issues, and reproductive organ resonance problems. Marquez then prescribed a dietary supplement called mineral magic concentrate. The detective was charged $171 for his prescribed supplements, examination, and screening [1].

Vela-Lopez described himself to the detectives as a “doctor in natural health” and a “homeopathic doctor.” Since 2000, he has been licensed as a massage therapist, but this does not entitle him to diagnose or treat disease. Marquez does not have a health-related license [1].

In January 2011, the Florida Board of Health charged Vela-Lopez with making misleading representations and practicing beyond the scope of his license [2]. The board's complaint noted that he had entered a pre-trial intervention program (This program enables first-time criminal offenders to undergo several months of supervision, which, if satisfactorily completed, will result in the charges being dropped.) In January 2012, the case was settled with an agreement under which Velez was reprimanded, fine $$1,500, and assed costs of voted to revoke Vela-Lopez'z license and assess a $1,500 fine plus 3,760.97 [3].

Illegal Marketing

The Asyra System is marketed by Galloway Technologies of Saratoga Springs, which does business under the name GTech. The system includes a device that generates signals and software used to interpret them. In 2003, without examining the software, the FDA gave 510(k) clearance to market the device for measuring galvanic skin resistance [4].  

This does not permit it to be marketed for diagnostic or treatment purposes [5]. However, in 2011, a brochure posted to GTech's brochure stated that the system provided "hormonal evaluation, emotional stressors, circulatory disturbances, digestive maladies, nutritional assessment, immune disorders, weight loss evaluation, food sensitivity analysis, environmental sensitivity profile, metabolic disturbances, sleep disturbances, comprehensive analysis" and includes "evaluation of over 5,000 items such as bacteria, cell salts, chemical toxins, dental disturbances, digestive disturbances, fungi, heavy metals, mycoplasma, neurotransmitters, parasites, and protozoa, to name a few." [6] The brochure further stated:

The process begins by taking energetic readings and measuring the body’s capacitive reaction. Through the process, customized filters (frequencies) relating to specific issues (such as chemical toxins, allergies, digestion, etc.) are output. If any of these filters creates a disturbance to any energetic component, cellular component, tissue, organ, or system of the body, the negative response will be registered by the patient’s body through the Asyra.

The system will then automatically load products (remedies) that are useful for restoring homeostasis or balance. It will then quickly scan through these until the patient’s body identifies the product/remedy that will remove the underlying disturbance and allow the patient to obtain an improved level of health. The product/remedy is then placed in the Hold Tank to store your results. The Hold Tank stores both the filter(s) that created an imbalance/disturbance and the products (remedies) that allow the individual’s body to restore homeostasis, balance, or improved health [6].

These claims, in addition to being preposterous, went far beyond what the FDA clearance authorized. In Ausut 2011, the FDA sent a warning letter ordering Galloway Technologies to stop making illegal diagnostic claims for Asyr devices.

If you encounter anyone using an Asyra device, please ask your local
law-enforcement agencies and state attorney general to investigate.

References

  1. PCSO detectives arrest Winter Haven couple for practicing medicine without a license. Polk Sheriff's Office news release, June 18, 2009.
  2. Administrative complaint. Florida Department of Health, Case No. 2007-10284, filed Jan 2, 2011
  3. Adams RW. Winter Haven massage therapist fined, keeps license. The Ledger, March 6, 2012.
  4. FDA 510(k) summary for #KO2335, June 24, 2003.
  5. Yellin AK. What are 510(K) clearance and premarket approval? Device Watch, Jan 9, 2009.
  6. Asyra brochure. GTech, 2007.
  7. Madsen MR. Warning letter to Joseph S. Galloway, Aug 25, 2011.

This page was revised on November 7, 2012.