The last we heard of infamous local pimp Arthur Vanmoor, he was hopping a plane back to Amsterdam. The Dutch-born sex impresario had been deported after a racketeering and conspiracy conviction last summer. But until his sudden exile, Vanmoor wasn't just the busy operator of multiple escort services that had cornered most of the illegal sex market in Broward County. He had also gained a reputation for litigiousness as he used the courts to fight previous law enforcement efforts to shut him down and won. He was also a Mensa member and a holder of patents for inventions as diverse as medical cures, a rotary engine, and a chastity belt. Described as a genius with a mean streak by people who knew him, Vanmoor seemed to have finally run out of luck when he was sent packing ("Gingerbread Man," January 29, 2003).
But now, it seems, Vanmoor is again trying his hand as a South Florida entrepreneur. The Dutchman appears to be connected to a website offering bogus cancer cures that lists a Boca Raton address.
Ralph Moss, a Pennsylvania medical writer and physician, noticed the site, cancercure.org, and exposed its fraudulent claims in a weekly newsletter he writes for cancer patients.
The cancercure.org website features slick testimonials from supposed medical professionals, makes reference to FDA approvals for the products it sells, boasts that more than 10,000 customers have already benefited, and offers a "100 percent money-back guarantee" for pills it sells at $150 a bottle that it claims will cure even the most advanced cancer in a matter of weeks.
But the FDA approvals are obvious fakes, the doctors don't exist (just try to find Dr. Kennedy Ross at the University of Texas at Austin or Bernard M. Satterfield at the University of Sydney, Australia), and, Moss says, the pills offered are likely just aspirin or placebos.
The ingredients of Cancer Control, the drug offered by cancercure.org, are listed as a mix of harmless amino acids, some available over the counter. But in a twist Moss calls "unbelievable and diabolical," the website also claims that Cancer Control is its own trade name for Camptosar which happens to be a legitimate drug in the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.
Prescription-only Camptosar has potentially fatal side effects "it would knock people's socks off," says Moss but he doubts that Camptosar is really what the website is selling. Camptosar is injected and can't be made into pill form.
Despite its false claims, however, the slick-looking website might be catching some people off guard.
"Sometimes people in desperate circumstances will lose their ordinary skepticism," Moss says.
Cancercure.org claims to be part of a company called Flu Fighter Laboratories. According to state records, Flu Fighter was incorporated on November 1 by Amanda Vasquez Medina of 22 SE Fourth St., #209, Boca Raton. Moss, meanwhile, found that the website's Internet host is in Australia, and it lists the contact for cancercure.org as Arthur Vanmoor of 22 SE Fourth St., #219, Boca Raton. The website features a 24-hour hotline with an 800 number as well as a 561 area-code prefix.
The unit 219 address is also registered in state records to Vanmoor Pharmaceuticals, incorporated in 1999. In February 2003, the U.S. Patent Office approved patent number 6,525,097 Vanmoor's "method for treating a cancerous condition by enhancing the effectiveness of the human immune system." His remedy calls for "the administration of... a sulfur-containing amino-acid derivative."
Flu Fighter Labs claims its cancer cure is "a powerful Immune System Booster that supercharges your immune system into a cancer-seeking guided missile that targets cancerous cells and tumors and destroys them."
Don't buy it, Moss says. "He lists ingredients that have nothing to do with Camptosar at all, just amino acids with scientific names." And Moss doubts that even these are in whatever is shipped to customers. "It wouldn't surprise me if there's nothing there at all; I mean, why would he bother?"
Could the man once known as "Big Pimpin' Pappy" really be behind the magic-bullet cure in Boca Raton?
"He's not back here, I can promise you that," says Karen Moore, assistant U.S. attorney in Miami in charge of a federal forfeiture case of $343,726 seized from Vanmoor's illegal businesses.
Moore says she knows Vanmoor is still in the Netherlands because she's been trying unsuccessfully for months to get him to travel to Miami to give a deposition. But Vanmoor characteristically has fought back, filing numerous motions to get a change of venue to Broward County, to disqualify Moore as the government's lawyer, to have the judge removed, to hold the Coral Springs Police Department and Washington Mutual Bank in contempt, to delay the case, and to have it dismissed entirely.
If Vanmoor is behind the bogus cancer cure, Moore says, "he's undoubtedly doing it from overseas." The government can't force Vanmoor to leave Amsterdam to appear in court here, and she believes he fears additional prosecution if he returns.
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Scott Dressler, the assistant state attorney for Broward County who prosecuted Vanmoor's criminal case, promised to call local detectives and tip them off about the website, and Kim Ward, a local FDA agent, confirmed that a criminal investigation was under way. Dressler points out that it's a violation of federal law for Vanmoor to re-enter the country and that the Department of Homeland Security has given him no such permission. (An exception would be granted if Moore can work out a visit for a deposition.)
But even if Vanmoor is still in the Low Countries, someone local is answering cancercure.org's phones. When Moss called the website's 800 number, a gum-smacking young woman listened to his (true) story about a friend with terminal cancer. "She assured me they'd be cured within six weeks," Moss says. When a New Times reporter called the same number, a woman answered with "Flu Fighter Laboratories," and the sound of ringing phones could be heard in the background. When she was asked about the effectiveness of Cancer Control, the woman placed the caller on hold for several minutes before the call was disconnected.
Moss, who searches out and investigates alternative medicines, says, "I've always considered myself sort of a friendly skeptic, but I'm not feeling too friendly about this one." He's been researching cancer treatments for more than 30 years and says "it attracts the best and worst in mankind.
"And this is one of the worst."