Doctor-Minister Gets 14 Years in Prison

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A doctor who’s a Pentecostal minister was sentenced Friday to 14 years in prison for taking $1.2 million from patients for a bogus cancer cure – acts that prosecutors called “despicable, cruel and heinous.”
     Christine Daniel, 58, of Santa Clarita, was convicted of four counts of fraud, six counts of tax evasion and one count of witness tampering, in a September 2011 jury trial.
     She was sent to prison and ordered to forfeit $1.3 million at her Friday sentencing.
     Daniel ran a clinic in the Mission Hills area of Los Angeles, “under names such as the Sonrise Wellness Center,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement announcing her sentence.
     Prosecutors said in the statement: “The basic facts of the case are that Daniel, a medical doctor and prominent Pentecostal minister, fraudulently marketed and collected more than $1 million for a medical treatment that she and her employees claimed could cure many diseases and conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and hepatitis. Daniel claimed that her bogus cancer cure had a success rate of between 60 percent and 80 percent for the most advanced forms of cancer.
     “The evidence presented at trial showed that Daniel’s treatment did not cure anyone of cancer, nor was it was made from herbs from around the world or blended for an individual patient, as she has promised patients. Chemical analyses determined that the product contained sunscreen preservative and beef extract flavoring, among other ingredients, none of which could have had any effect on cancer or other diseases.”
     The statement added: “Daniel used her status as a Pentecostal minister to create a bond of trust with members of the Evangelical Christian community, an affinity that gave her access to victims to whom she sold bogus hope and worthless treatments. Daniel promoted the product under a variety of names – including ‘C-Extract,’ ‘the natural treatment’ and ‘the herbal treatment’ – through a program televised on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.”
     Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) bills itself as the “World’s Largest Faith Channel.” TBN and Christine Daniel were sued as long ago as 2004 by a family that claimed Daniel’s cure, advertised on TBN, contributed to the death of a cancer patient, according to the Courthouse News database.
     Prosecutors said in their statement on Friday: “During the trial, the jury heard testimony from 28 victim-patients, or close family members of victims who had died while taking Daniel’s product. Some described how Daniel urged them to avoid conventional cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, because such therapies would reduce the efficacy of Daniel’s herbal “cure.” Family members testified that Daniel also forbid her cancer patients to take any pain relief medication for the same reason. Some of these patients spent the last few months of their lives in agony as the cancers spread throughout their bodies. The evidence presented at trial showed that a significant percentage of Daniel’s patients died within three to six months after they started taking Daniel’s bogus cure.”
     Daniel charged up to $4,720 for one week’s worth of her herbal snake oil. Six months of it cost $120,000 to $150,000, prosecutors said in the statement.
     They added: “According to testimony at trial, one victim who had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer contacted Daniel and was told that chemotherapy would not help. After the victim traveled to Southern California, Daniel told the victim that the herbal treatment program would shrink her tumors and kill her cancer cells. For almost five months, the victim and her husband paid Daniel thousands of dollars for the herbal product. After taking the herbal ‘cure’ for four months and within two weeks after Daniel pronounced her to be cancer-free at a party held for patients, the victim died. The cancer had spread from her breasts to her bones and brain.
     “‘Daniel repeatedly demonstrated a merciless and callous indifference to the suffering of her patients and their family members,’ prosecutors wrote.”
     Daniel told her victims to call their payments “donations” to her clinic, and failed to report $1.3 million of income on her tax returns.

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