Daryn Peterson, who was convicted in December of posing as a doctor and claiming to heal serious or incurable diseases including cancer and AIDS, was sentenced today to 270 days in jail and five years probation, and is prohibited from working in any medical field or selling any vitamins or pharmaceuticals for the duration of his probation.
Peterson, who pleaded guilty Dec. 8, 2009, to one felony count each of the unauthorized practice of medicine, operating a health care service plan (HMO) without a license, offering an unapproved drug for cancer treatment, and one misdemeanor count of selling misbranded food, had been boosted in a June 10, 2009, Orange County Register feature story by Courtney Perkes titled "A Rejection of Western Medicine."
The story and a color picture appeared on the front page of the Register's Life/Wellness section with the subhead, "Clients swear by natural treatments, but many others doubtful." The online version, posted the day before, carried the headline, "'Natural Doctor' Says He Can Cure Cancer, AIDS."
People identified in the piece as patients of Peterson were his sister, whose last name was dropped, and her boyfriend, an Orange County District Attorney investigation discovered. "Alarmed by the potential health risks to the community and the recklessness of the article," the DA launched the probe the morning the Register piece hit the streets, according to a statement from prosecutors.
In the article, the self-proclaimed doctor claimed to cure cancer and AIDS and indicated he encouraged his patients to cancel their health insurance policies. As he did in online infomercials, Peterson also promoted his supplements to cure "cancer, AIDS, peanut allergies and heart failure."
Given the counts against him, the 37-year-old Las Vegas resident could have received a sentence of four years and four months in state prison. Prosecutors recommended the jail time and probation as part of a plea deal.
As Clockwork previously reported, an undercover DA investigator signed up as a patient on Peterson's Natural Health Care Organization website, was contacted by Peterson for a meeting in his Mira Loma apartment, and told the medical man that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma and was scared of the chemotherapy his doctor recommended by his doctor.
Peterson informed the undercover officer that he treats many cancer patients, the chemotherapy would kill faster than the cancer, and he boasted an 88 percent success rate in treating all types of cancer, including lymphoma. The officer was told he could "expect almost complete reversal" within one year of taking his "all-natural" vitamins and natural supplements on a daily basis.
The investigation discovered:
* At the time the article was published, Peterson was running his business using a mail drop-box located on Marguerite Parkway in Mission Viejo;
*He treated his "patients" in his Orange County residence;
*The defendant possesses no professional licenses issued by the state of California. Comprehensive medical exams and a license from the state to practice medicine and dispense prescriptions.
*Peterson offered patients an "insurance" plan or an HMO not licensed by the California Department of Managed Health Care or the Department of Insurance, as required by law.
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*The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the California Department of Health Care Services have not approved any of the supplements recommended by Peterson for the treatment of cancer. Doctors are authorized by law to represent that they have an effective treatment for cancer only if the drug has been approved by the FDA.
In court, prosecutors said Peterson falsely claimed to be a doctor with a PhD diploma from "Canterbury University." OCDA Investigators determined that "Canterbury University" is not a real learning institution and were able to obtain the exact same PhD diploma from the same "Canterbury University" by paying $180 on the Internet.
The investigation also discovered Peterson is related to one of the "patients" featured in the Register story. His biological sister, Selena Lori Peterson, merely dropped her last name for the story, which did not address the relationship. A male "patient" featured in the story was Selena Lori Peterson's boyfriend.
As Clockwork also reported previously, former patients who staunchly defended Peterson until the end created an online legal defense fund for him.