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Stem Cell Fraud Probe Centered In Texas

FORT WORTH (AP) - Two Texas men have been charged in federal indictments with conspiring to defraud people suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy, cancer and other diseases by advising and treating them with unapproved stem cell treatments.

Lawrence "Larry" Stowe, a former Fort Worth resident, and Francisco Morales, a Brownsville resident with dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship, are charged in an alleged conspiracy that took in more than $750,000 between 2006 and 2010, according to an indictment unsealed Dec. 27 in Houston.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that neither man was licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. yet each represented himself that way, according to the indictment. Stowe operated through The Stowe Foundation and Stowe Biotherapy, Inc., both of which listed the same Fort Worth business address, a rented post office box. Morales told patients he owned the Rio Valley Medical Clinic in Brownsville and sold to Stowe a drug and biological product made from goat's blood, court records show. The clinic address was actually Morales' home.

"It was the object of the conspiracy for the defendants and others to unlawfully enrich themselves by manufacturing and distributing blood cultures, stem cells, vaccines and other drugs not approved by the (Food and Drug Administration) for the treatment of patients suffering from cancer, ALS, MS, Parkinson's and other diseases," the indictment reads. Stowe told patients that his treatment protocol was a "permanent fix" for such diseases, according to the indictment.

On Jan. 6, Stowe surrendered to a federal magistrate in Chicago and was expected to eventually appear in federal court in Houston. He could not be reached for comment, but Houston attorney Herman Martinez, who had been approached to represent him, told the Star-Telegram that Stowe was living at an undisclosed location in the Midwest. Court records did not list an attorney for Stowe in the Houston case yet. He was represented by a public defender during his initial appearance in Chicago.

A second indictment also unsealed Dec. 27 in Houston, charges Morales and several others with a fraud conspiracy that trafficked umbilical cords and stem cells.

Morales pleaded not guilty to all charges Friday and planned to be released on bond Tuesday, said San Antonio lawyer Jeff Mulliner.

Stowe was the subject of a 2010 investigation by the CBS-TV news show 60 Minutes, which interviewed people who had paid him for treatment. Several patients are identified by their initials in the indictment.

Court records indicate Morales' trial in the case with Stowe is scheduled to begin Feb. 6 and in the other case Feb. 21, though initial trial dates are often delayed.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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