An unlicensed physician who conned 134 chronically ill patients over the last four years into undergoing experimental stem cell procedures he claimed could cure diseases like multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, pleaded not guilty to 20 mail and wire fraud charges in a Las Vegas courtroom last week. Alfred Sapse, who told patients he was a retired physician, allegedly earned roughly $1 million for his work from both patients and investors, but instead of using any of that money for research, he spent about $700,000 of it on "gambling and personal expenses," according to the Las Vegas Sun.
Sapse never obtained any approval from the Food and Drug Administration for his procedure, which involved placing portions of placental tissue into the abdomens of his patients. To perform his procedure, he hired a Las Vegas-area pediatrician lacking stem cell training referred to as "Physician C," who operated on 34 patients from February to November of 2006. Ultimately, Sapse relocated to Mexico, where a doctor known as "Physician G" performed the same procedure on 100 more patients from February 2007 through this past May.
Sapse's misdeeds in this incident actually stretch back to May 2005, when he formed the company Stem Cell Pharma Inc., to give off the impression that he operated a legit pharmaceutical company, according to the Sun's report. He touted on several websites and press releases the legitimacy of his procedure, which he insisted would help wheelchair-bound patients to "walk again." Despite such claims, Sapse never revealed where he obtained his "stem cells" (from Caesarian section births, only); never explained the short- or long-term effects of his procedure (infections and a worsening of symptoms); and never followed-up with his patients afterward.
Sapse also has a history of illegitimacy in the medical field. In 1977, he helped to convince lawmakers in Nevada to legalize the drug Gerovital on the grounds that it was an anti-aging agent, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2007. Studies have since refuted that claim.
To learn more:
- check out this Department of Justice press release
- read this Fox News article
- read the Las Vegas Sun piece
- check out Stem Cell Pharma Inc.'s website
- here's the Review-Journal story from 2007