Government Actions against Raymond J. Salani, Jr.
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
The New Jersey Attorney General has filed suit to stop Raymond J. Salani, Jr, from engaging in the unlicensed practice of medicine. This is the fourth time that state regulators have taken action related to his unlicensed practice.
In the early 1980s, Salani operated the Nutri-Health Center, Inc.,where he represented himself as a nutritionist and health consultant with a Ph.D. degree from Donsbach University. An ad for his clinic described it as "a preventive health care facility that helps you fight disease, resist stress, and reach your best level of health . . . NUTRITIONALLY . . . without drugs" and claimed that the clinic's services were covered by medical insurance . A Nutri-Care brochure asked whether you would like to "strengthen yourself' against 96 "common health problems" ranging from from bad breath and dandruff to cancer, heart disease and stroke . Donsbach University was a non-accredited correspondence school that advocated the use of dietary supplements to treat a wide range of diseases .
In 1989, the New Jersey Attorney General and the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners filed a civil court complaint charging Salani and Nutri-Care with practicing medicine without a license, violating the state's clinical laboratory act, consumer fraud, and insurance fraud. The complaint stated that Salani misused the term "doctor," ordered and performed blood and urine tests for clients, prescribed "excessive quantities" of food supplements" that were ineffective or potentially toxic, and issued fraudulent reports to insurance companies . I served as a consultant in the case to provide information about Donsbach University.
The complaint was supported by affidavits from six former clients and four undercover investigators who had consulted "Dr." Salani for leg cramps, stomach cramps, migraine headaches, obesity, epileptic seizures, hypoglycemia, allergies, and attacks of shortness of breath. Most of the affidavits said that Salani had ordered tests and outlined a program of vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements that would cost hundreds of dollars. Several of the clients complained that Salani's charges exceeded his original estimates, that the amounts reported to insurance companies were less than what they had paid, and that he had billed for tests that had not been performed.
Other documents in the case indicate that:
- Salani saw clients by appointment, took their medical history, ordered lab tests, and prescribed products.
- Nutri-Care allegedly performed urine tests although it was not licensed to operate a bioanalytic laboratory.
- Blood tests were obtained from a licensed laboratory using preprinted request slips with "Nutri-Care Health Center" stamped on the line that said "Physician's signature. "
- Salani's receipts and reports to insurance companies were made using "Physician's Statements" preprinted with the words "Mill Run Associates, J. Willard Cook, M.D., Medical Director," at Nutri-Care's address.
- Dr. Cook, a family practitioner in Shrewsbury, occasionally referred patients to Salani and sometimes saw Salani's clients for consultations, but Salani did most of his work independently. Although Cook knew that insurance companies were being billed for services performed by Salani under Cook's name, he continued to maintain his relationship and perform medical screenings for Nutri-Care. Cook was also aware that medical laboratory work was being done under his name even though he had not seen the patients and the results went directly to Salani.
- In 1989, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners issued a consent order that described this situation and reprimanded Cook for permitting his name to be misused. The Board also fined Cook $2,500 for aiding and abetting Salani's unlicensed practice of medicine .
New Jersey law makes it illegal in the course of business to place the initials of a recognized degree after one's name unless that degree has been obtained from an accredited institution. However, it has no laws that limit use of the word "nutritionist" or regulate the practice of nutrition. In 1989, during a hearing, a New Jersey Superior Court judge referred to Salani's "Ph.D. as a "Mickey Mouse degree" and permanently enjoined from representing to the public that he has a doctoral degree unless he acquires one from an accredited school. But the judge said that Salani was free to continue practicing as a nutritionist so long as he does not violate other general laws that protect the public [6,7]. In 1990, the judge approved a settlement agreement that prohibited Salani from (a) representing himself as a doctor, (b) recommending supplements for preventing or treating any specific medical condition or complaint (except upon physician referral), (c) diagnosing medical conditions or symptoms, (d) ordering or performing urine, blood or hair analysis tests, and (e) filling out insurance forms in a misleading manner. He was also required to inform his clients that the FDA did not recognize any need or usefulness for quantities of vitamins or minerals higher than the USRDAs or for other products that he recommends. As part of the settlement, Salani paid the state $11,000, part of which was used for restitution to insurance companies and former clients .
In 1994, Salani was found guilty of engaging in the unlicensed practice of medicine, held in contempt of court for violating the 1990 settlement order, and assessed a civil penalty of $1,000.
In 1995, Salani was convicted of theft by deception, fined $5,000, and sentenced to two years' probation. The case involved collecting insurance payments of more than $75,000 to which he was not entitled.
The Current Action
Salani represents himself as the sole owner of Lifestyles Medical LLC in West Long Branch. The clinic's Web site identifies his wife Lauren as the head of the Psychophysiology and Biofeedback Department and Vinson M. DiSanto, D.O. as medical director. Salani himself is not mentioned on the site. The current complaint, filed in Monmouth County Superior Court, charges Salani with violating New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act as well as the 1990 and 1994 court orders. The complaint describes several instances where Salani and his son Randy allegedly had offered medical advice to patients. In one case, when a male patient appeared to have a seizure, Salani and DiSanto sought to minimize the situation and stated that a hospital evaluation of the patient was not needed despite the patient's condition. The State also conducted two undercover operations in which investigators posing as patients interacted with Salani. Both investigators received prescriptions after talking only with Salani and despite never having seen or talked to a physician. Although the complaint does not charge DiSanto with doing anything illegal, it notes that he was not involved in the day-to-day operation of the clinic, his name was sometimes signed on prescriptions for people seen by Salani in his absence, and that on one occasion, DiSanto signed a chart created to justify an insurance billing .
On April 11, the State obtained an order to seize Salani's office records . In addition to stopping Salani from the unlicensed practice of medicine, the state is seeking (a) a six-month sentence for contempt, (b) civil penalties, (c) restitution to all affected persons or entities, and (d) costs associated with the prosecution of the case.
Di Santo is licensed to practice osteopathy in Indiana, New Jersey, Kentucky, Texas, and West Virginia. Three of the boards have fined him for failing to reveal on his application that in 1979 he been dismissed from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) for a period of time for academic reasons: Kentucky in 2010 and Texas and West Virginia in 2011. An American Osteopathic Association directory indicates that he graduated from PCOM in 1986. His current licensing profiles state that he resides in Texas.
- "Nutrition against disease." Nutri-Care Health Center advertisement, late 1980s.
- "Here's a starting point for your personal health file." Nutri-Care Health Center flyer, undated, late 1980s.
- Barrett S. Stay away from Donsbach University graduates. Quackwatch, May 7, 2017.
- Verified complaint. Peter J. Peretti, Jr., and State Board of Medical Examiners v. Raymond J. Salani, Jr., and Nutri-Care Health Center, Inc. Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Monmouth County, Docket No. C-2656-89, filed Feb 22, 1989.
- Consent order. In the matter of Willard Cook, M.D. New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, filed, Nov 8, 1989.
- Order granting partial summary judgment. Peter J. Peretti, Jr., and State Board of Medical Examiners v. Raymond J. Salani, Jr., and Nutri-Care Health Center, Inc. Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Monmouth County, Docket No. C-2656-89, filed Dec 15, 1989.
- Transcript of court's decision. Perretti v. Salani, Dec 15, 1989.
- Settlement order. Peter J. Peretti, Jr., and State Board of Medical Examiners v. Raymond J. Salani, Jr., and Nutri-Care Health Center, Inc. Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Monmouth County, Docket No. C-2656-89, filed March 8, 1990.
- Contempt action: Verified complaint. Christopher S. Porrino et al. v. Raymond Salani, Jr.; Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Monmouth County. C-56-17, filed April 10, 2017.
- Ex parte order to show cause with temporary restraints and an order authorizing inspection and impoundment of evidence. Christopher S. Porrino et al. v. Raymond Salani, Jr.; Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Monmouth County. C-56-17, filed April 11, 2017.
This article was revised on May 9, 2017.