Federal grand jury indicts Huu Tieu for marketing herbal mixture as FDA approved substance that could treat COVID-19
VISALIA – With schools forced to start the year with distance learning, people are grasping at straws for any reliable treatment that could end the whole pandemic. But the people selling snake oil could face up to 20 years in prison, and thousands in fines.
At least that’s the case for Huu Tieu. The president and CEO of the Porterville based companies, Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical Inc. and Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical Inc. was arrested last week in light of a federal indictment.
On July 9, a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment for pushing an herbal mixture that he claimed could treat COVID-19 and was FDA approved.
According to a press release from U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott, Tieu made a series of false statements about the mixture, titled Emergency D-Virus Plan of Care.
One of those false statements from Tieu’s company said that one of the mixtures in the product called “ImunStem” was the first dietary supplement in the United State to be FDA approved to treat COVID-19.
“In reality, the FDA has never approved any Golden Sunrise product for any intended use and, on at least two occasions, has told Tieu in writing that ImunStem is not FDA approved,” the press release stated.
Another false statement Tieu’s company made was that ImunStem was designated as a Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) under the 21st Century Cures Act.
“In reality, the FDA never granted an RMAT designation to any Golden Sunrise product, denied Tieu’s request for an RMAT designation for ImunStem in 2017, and reiterated that denial to Tieu in writing in 2019,” the press release stated.
The federal indictment against Tieu said that he misrepresented the product in order to sell the product to patients and health care professionals. He would then submit reimbursement claims to the patients insurers which included Medicare and Medi-Cal. Not only did Tieu sell his product to the Porterville area, but he also shipped it all over California and the United States.
In the indictment under the heading, “the scheme to defraud,” Tieu began his scheme on or about Feb. 4 through July 9.
“Tieu, with the intent to defraud, knowingly devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud insurers, including UHC, Medicare and Medi-Cal of money and property and to obtain money and property from customers and insurers,” the indictment read.
According to Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical’s web site, goldensunrisepharmaceutical.com, the company was founded in 2011 and has done “long extensive years of Research and Development of micronutrients and nutraceutical.”
The company claims to have successfully developed alternative herbal/botanical products creating an overall health to the patients.
“The priority of Golden Sunrise pharmaceutical is to increase a healthy and product live for those suffering from serious or life-threatening conditions,” the site states.
The company states that Dr. Stephen Meis MD and Nikki Arguinzoni-Gil, ND have recommended and prescribed Golden Sunrise pharmaceutical products.
Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Tieu’s second company was founded in 2016. The main difference between the two companies is that Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical claims to be a herbal product that creates gene rejuvenation and prolongs life.
On their web site, goldensunrisenutraceutical.com, the laundry list of plans and products claims to treat addictions, autoimmune disorders, chronic constipation, diabetes, and osteoporosis among others. The company also pushes their drugs efficacy against cancer under the misspelled heading “cancer is primary a metabolic disease.”
The content under the heading states that cells malfunction because of toxins and malnutrition.
“By not addressing nutrition and toxicity of cells in the body, individuals will experience damage on the cellular level,” the web site states.
It goes on to state that their dietary supplements cause the release of toxins out of the cells, “at the same time the herbs supply the essential nutrients which the cells have been starving for.”
Investigators started to uncover Tieu’s alleged scam, on May 8 when an undercover investigator with the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office met with Tieu in person, telling him her mother was 68 and very sick with COVID-19. The investigator asked Tieu if she should take her mother to the hospital. Tieu responded, “No. You cannot go in there,” and instead, encouraged her to use Golden Sunrise products.
The investigation has been brought together by myriad state and federal agencies including: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the California Department of Health Care Services with assistance from the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office and the California Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vincente Tennerelli and Alexandre Dempsey are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Tieu faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the mail fraud counts and three years in prison and a $10,000 fine on the misbranding counts. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.