By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
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But in January, Yusem pleaded guilty in exchange for his felony adjudication's being withheld; he'll serve two years' probation, sell his stake in Maxim Life, and promise to stop playing doctor. In exchange, his record will be clean.
Dr. Charles got off even easier. His adjudication was also withheld, and he kept his license. Last month, Woliner traveled to Tampa to plead with the Osteopathic Board of Medicine to strip Charles of his license. But each time Woliner tried to explain the DOH's failings, he was cut off by board members. "You can only address what's in the administrative complaint," board chair Ronald Burns scolded Woliner.
In the end, the board forced Charles to pay an additional $11,800. But he'll keep his license.
In a state where felons can own clinics that are rarely if ever inspected, patients go to anti-aging clinics at their own risk. And sometimes they get burned.
A sampling of complaints against clinics like Biogenesis finds a heart patient allegedly killed by an experimental procedure, a fraudulent doc who injured a minor by taking him off his medication, a steroid user whose failed suicide attempt cost him internal organs, and an international criminal enterprise that crumbled over a 'roid rage incident.
Among the most interesting cases is that of Bishop Peter Bukawyn, a longtime immigration advocate and pastor at the Apostolic Mission of Christ in downtown Miami. He died in 2010 after a treatment at Lauderhill's Institute of Advanced Medicine.
According to a pending appeal with the DOH, Bukawyn went in for "chelation therapy," a chemical IV drip that Slavin claims can reverse heart disease without invasive surgery. The pastor went through the therapy for a month in June 2010. Then, on July 4, he was rushed to the hospital with a Stage 4 heart attack and died. In the complaint, Slavin is accused of breaking state regulations by refusing to refer the pastor to a cardiologist, failing to get his consent for an experimental procedure, and dispensing heart medication without a license.
It's not the first charge leveled against Slavin. He was reprimanded by the state in 1993, according to the Sun Sentinel, for overprescribing dilaudid, a powerful and addictive narcotic, to six patients. He was eventually put on probation and fined $3,000. In 2008, state records show a patient complained she'd been injured when Slavin prescribed meds for hyperthyroidism even though her thyroid was fine; the state pressed charges, and despite testimony from an expert witness, an administrative judge sided with Slavin last January. The case was dismissed. Slavin didn't respond to four messages left at his clinic.
Just north in Stuart, the Back to Eden Wellness Center had a less dramatic but much stranger case. The place was run by Lynette Blake, who called herself a "naturopathic doctor" despite having no state license. Blake convinced one underaged patient's parents to take him off his meds and, when his condition quickly worsened, told them "with 100 percent certainty their son was possessed by an evil spirit," according to a police report.
Blake drew ten vials of blood from another patient and then refused that person's demand to be taken to the hospital when the patient became dizzy. Blake was arrested in August and charged with practicing medicine without a license. She is out on bond and awaiting a hearing.
Others are indirect victims of easy access to steroids in Florida. Stephen Bailey, who was 25, got a job in early 2010 as a trainer at the Sebring YMCA. Thrown into a macho weight-room culture, he soon started buying Winstrol, an anabolic steroid, from a fellow trainer. "I'm not going to say Stephen never struggled with depression before," says his mother, Tina Haley. "But everything changed once he started taking steroids."
One night a few months after starting Winstrol, Bailey choked down more than 200 Tylenol PM pills. He was rushed to the hospital, and doctors kept him in a medical coma at 92 degrees for two weeks. Amazingly, he regained consciousness, but doctors had to remove portions of his liver, intestines, and lungs. "I don't know where the steroids first came from, but somewhere out there, a doctor was willing to sign his name to a prescription he knew was bogus," Haley says.
Last, there is the case of Sharon Cohen, whose impotent husband threatened her with a knife and pounded his head on a TV set. Her testimony actually helped bring down a violent criminal gang. In April, Cohen told Hill, the DOH inspector, in harrowing detail how Bosch's medications led her husband to become increasingly violent until the terrifying attack.
"He held me against my will in the laundry room and beat me with his closed fist on my stomach," she said. She survived only because she "called 911 through a panic button that I installed."
Alvaro Lopez Tardon was arrested on domestic violence charges March 1, 2011, but much worse would soon follow. On July 14, federal agents swarmed another apartment he owned in the luxury Continuum building in South Beach.