Doctor Accused of Selling Fake COVID-19 Cure Followed President's Lead: Attorney

The packs the defendant was allegedly selling included Xanax, azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine and was priced at nearly $4,000

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The attorney for a San Diego physician arrested for allegedly selling what he described as a miracle cure for coronavirus argues his client is being unfairly charged.

Carmel Valley physician Jennings Ryan Staley, who runs Skinny Beach Med Spa, was arrested April 16 and faces a charge of mail fraud after he allegedly tried to sell an undercover FBI agent a “COVID-19 treatment pack" that could cure the disease, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The pack included hydroxychloroquine, Xanax, and azithromycin and was priced at $3,995 of a family of four. The defendant sent emails advertising the packs, authorities said.

During a phone call with the undercover agent, Staley referred to the medication as a “magic bullet” that is “almost too good to be true.” A week after the call, the FBI interviewed Staley about the fraudulent treatment and he denied ever saying such things.

Staley's attorney Patrick Griffin claims the undercover agent set Staley up to say specific language that led to his arrest.

Griffin also questions how his client could be charged for selling a treatment Griffin claims has been touted by President Donald Trump and others in his cabinet.

"The executive branch is the one that’s pushing this. When I say that I mean it’s the President of the United States, it’s his staff, it’s the Secretary of Human Health, it’s various other entities underneath him. They are all pushing it," Griffin argued.

Griffin said his client is an Iraq War veteran and a combat doctor who's "uniquely qualified to deal with this type of situation."

The attorney said his client believes in the treatment he was selling but understands others may not.

"Reasonable minds can differ about the effectiveness of the medication and that's fine. For it to come down on either side, that's OK. But that's a medical dispute. What we have here is a criminal case, and for that medical dispute to now end up in a criminal courtroom, that’s the problem," Griffin said,

Staley’s first hearing in federal court was held via telephone. During that call, Deputy U.S. Attorney Rob Huie argued Staley is a danger to the public, and thus should post a $100,000 surety bond to remain free.

“In this environment in which we’re living with the pandemic, with the level of anxiety that the public faces, misinformation is not only troubling and financially dangerous, it is dangerous to life," said Huie. “If somebody is out there with the belief that they’re immune from this disease, having taken a treatment kit, they’re in a position to expose themselves and they’re in a position to expose others.”

The judge ordered Staley to post a $45,000 surety bond and $5,000 cash. She also ordered him to stop advertising, selling, prescribing or having anything to do with the coronavirus.

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