A woman believed to be diagnosing and treating patients out of an Encinitas facility was arrested and charged this week on suspicion of practicing medicine without a license.
Kathleen Ann Helms, 57, allegedly operated a business called BrightHouse Wellness, in which she advised at least one patient to undergo an expensive IV treatment, according to a statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
The treatment left the woman severely injured. She had to be placed in an assisted living facility as a result of the treatment, the statement said.
Helms is accused of charging over $30,000 for a cocktail of treatments, which included an injection of animal stem cells and an IV drip of Dimethyl Sulfoxide, an anti-inflammatory solvent.
One of the victims filed an affidavit in the case, the FBI said. The female victim told investigators that after being diagnosed by Helms with Lyme disease, she was sent to Tijuana for an insertion of a PICC line that would deliver the medicine.
After three visits to the Tijuana facility, the patient told investigators she went back to Helms' office, where Helms injected her with more of the medicine for seven hours. Helms repeated the treatment three more times.
On the evening of the last treatment, the victim became extremely sick. She went to the hospital and was told her organs were shutting down and she had just six weeks to live.
The victim survived, but was placed into a skilled nursing home and later in an assisted living facility. Her condition is not known at this time.
The FBI believes there may be other victims in this case, which is being prosecuted by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. Anyone who believes they may be a victim in this matter is encouraged to contact the FBI at (858) 565-1255.
On Wednesday afternoon, District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis charged Helms with multiple felony counts of treating patients without a medical license. Helms was also charged with grand theft.
Helms pleaded not guilty in court. If convicted of all charges, she could face up to 12 years and eight months in state prison.
“By posing as an M.D., misdiagnosing people and then charging thousands of dollars for what amounted to a fake and dangerous cure, this defendant showed a callous disregard for her victims,” said Dumanis in a statement released Wednesday. “Our Consumer Unit works to hold individuals who pose as physicians accountable for their actions and the harm done to their victims.”
Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas said this case should serve as a warning to consumers seeking alternative forms of medical care.
“This case is a reminder that consumers need to verify the credentials of health care providers, particularly when seeking alternative medical therapies,” said Darvas. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before.”
Helms is currently being held on $250,000 bail. She’s scheduled to appear in court again on August 24 and August 28.