SAN DIEGO -
An Encinitas woman who falsely told people she was a doctor and misled people into believing they had Lyme disease and needed infusions of an experimental medicinal solvent and injections of animal cells pleaded guilty Friday to four counts of conspiracy to practice medicine without a license.
Kathleen Ann Helms, 57, will be sentenced to three years in prison on Dec. 3. The defendant will serve her custody in a local jail.
Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas said two people treated by Helms filed complaints with the California Medical Board, prompting an investigation by the FBI.
The complaining witnesses claimed Helms, also known as Catherine Bright-Helms, falsely represented herself as a doctor of naturopathy in Encinitas and Oak Park, Ill.
The defendant operated a business in Encinitas called BrightHouse Wellness on North El Camino Real.
According to an affidavit in the case, Helms diagnosed a patient with the inflammatory illness after looking at a sample of blood under a microscope, then prescribed a treatment plan that included shots of bovine stem cells from Germany.
Helms directed the patient to go to a Tijuana hospital to have a peripherally inserted central line put into one of her arms so Helms could give treatments intravenously. The patient agreed to pay $300 for the insertion of the line and $30,000 for the treatment Helms recommended, according to the affidavit.
The patient suffered multiple complications with the insertion of the line and had to return to Tijuana three times to make the line functional, according to the FBI.
The patient subsequently returned to Helms' office, where she was hooked to an IV and infused with four bags of dimethyl sulfoxide, an experimental medicinal solvent, and two stem-cell injections in the stomach, according to the affidavit.
The patient returned to Helms' office three more times and underwent a similar regime that included infusions and injections. On the evening of the last treatment, the woman became seriously ill at home and was taken to an emergency room and immediately placed in an intensive-care unit, according to the affidavit.
The patient initially was told she only had hours to live because her organs were shutting down, but ultimately was hospitalized for six weeks, then placed into a skill-nursing facility and later an assisted-living facility, according to the FBI.
A man diagnosed by Helms with Lyme disease was actually suffering from prostate cancer, Darvas said,
Each victim -- referred to Helms through other alternative practitioners -- spent at least $6,000, according to Darvas.