NAPA (CBS SF) -- A licensed naturopathic doctor in Napa was arrested Wednesday in an alleged scheme to sell homeoprophylaxis immunization pellets and provide fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, federal authorities announced.
Juli A. Mazi, 41, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters what was characterized as the first federal criminal prosecution related to homeoprophylaxis immunizations and fake COVID-immunization records.
Ethan Gladner lives in the same apartment complex where Mazi operated her practice. Agents made the arrest as they raided her office.
"Didn't know anything about it. Just kind of crazy to think it can happen in the small town we live in," Gladner told KPIX 5.
Mazi was investigated after a complaint to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from a person whose family members purchased products from her in April. According to court documents, the complainant said Mazi told family members her homeprophylaxis pellets contained the COVID-19 virus and would create an antibody response in their immune systems.
Along with the pellets, Mazi allegedly sent falsified U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination cards to the family, with the Moderna vaccine listed on the cards. Mazi allegedly told family members to mark the cards to falsely state they had received the Moderna vaccine on the date that they ingested the pellets.
"This defendant allegedly defrauded and endangered the public by preying on fears and spreading misinformation about FDA-authorized vaccinations, while also peddling fake treatments that put people's lives at risk. Even worse, the defendant allegedly created counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards and instructed her customers to falsely mark that they had received a vaccine, allowing them to circumvent efforts to contain the spread of the disease," said Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco in a press statement. "The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the American people from fraudsters during this national emergency."
In addition, the court documents allege Mazi offered homeoprophylaxis immunizations for childhood illnesses that she falsely claimed would satisfy the immunization requirements for California schools, and falsified immunization cards that were submitted by parents to California schools.
"Instead of disseminating valid remedies and information, Juli Mazi profited from unlawfully peddling unapproved remedies, stirring up false fears, and generating fake proof of vaccinations," said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern Distict of California Stephanie Hinds in a press statement.
According to the complaint, Mazi encouraged purchase of her products by exploiting disinformation and fear of FDA-authorized COVID vaccines, falsely claiming the vaccines contain "toxic ingredients." Mazi is also alleged to have told customers they could give the pellets to children for COVID-19 immunity, and that the "dose is actually the same for babies."
"Spreading inaccurate or false medical information about COVID-19 for personal gain, as the complaint alleges, is dangerous and only seeds skepticism among the public," said Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair of the FBI's San Francisco Field Office. "As the government continues to work to provide current and accurate information to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the FBI will continue to pursue those who attempt to fraudulently profit from spreading misinformation and providing false documentation."
According to the Justice Department, Mazi made $221,817 between January of 2020 and May of this year. Twenty-five of the transactions are specified for COVID treatments totaling $7,653, while 34 other transactions were for unspecified homeoprophylaxis treatments.
If convicted, Mazi faces a maximum 20 years in prison for the wire fraud charge and five years for the false statements charge. Each charge also carries a maximum $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release, although any sentence following conviction would take into consideration U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence.
KPIX 5 reached out to Mazi but have not received a response as of late Wednesday night.
In May, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland established a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to help prosecute criminal actors looking to profit from fraud and misinformation during the pandemic.
Anyone with information about fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
Andrea Nakano contributed to this report.
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