1st federal court hearing for San Diego doctor charged in COVID-19 fraud scheme

Posted at 5:59 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 20:59:17-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Carmel Valley doctor had his first court hearing on Friday afternoon after being charged with fraud over allegedly selling so-called "cures" for COVID-19. 10News’ cameras were not allowed inside, which is standard for federal proceedings.

The teleconference arraignment for Dr. Jennings Staley from the Skinny Beach Medical Spa was held in a downtown federal courtroom. He’s charged with mail fraud in connection to the sale of what he described as a "miracle cure for COVID -19", according to federal authorities.

10News first reported on Dr. Staley last month after he was accused of being unethical for advertising COVID-19 treatment packs that cost upwards of thousands of dollars and included the medications hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

On March 30th, he defended his action in an interview with 10News. “I would not prescribe the medication without seeing the patient and evaluating them first,” he said.

In a newly filed federal complaint, investigators reference 10News’ original story and reveal that an undercover FBI agent started talking to Dr. Staley, who reportedly said he was selling hydroxychloroquine, adding it "cures the disease" and is a "miracle cure".

He's accused of telling an agent that, "he was smuggling in from China powdered hydroxychloroquine, falsely describing the drug as ‘yam extract’.”

He also reportedly offered to throw in a "bottle of 100 mg viagra" and xanax and ship the controlled substance without doing a medical exam.

In the complaint, agents released a photo of the prescriptions he shipped to them last Thursday, they claim. Agents report that he shipped azithromycin, xanax, viagra and hydroxychloroquine.

As a pretrial condition, the judge said on Friday that the doctor is not allowed to advertise or sell anymore virus treatments and he can't contact any alleged victims.

His next court appearance is on May 19th.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.