Porterville man charged with falsely marketing herbal mixtures as FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19

Crime

FILE – This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, U.S. health regulators OK’d the first coronavirus test that allows people to collect their own sample at home, a new approach that could help expand testing options in most states. The sample will still have to be shipped for processing back to LabCorp, which operates diagnostic labs throughout the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) — A Porterville man was arrested and charged with mail fraud and introducing a misbranded drug and sold a package of herbal mixtures dubbed the “Emergency D-Virus Plan of Care,” which he claimed treated COVID-19, according to U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott.

According to the indictment, Huu Tieu, 58, was the president and CEO of Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical Inc. and Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical Inc., both headquartered in Porterville.

Scott said from at least April 25 to July 9, through his companies, Tieu marketed and sold a package of herbal mixtures dubbed the “Emergency D-Virus Plan of Care,” which he claimed treated COVID-19. In materials posted on the companies’ websites and Facebook pages and in emails to the media, Tieu made a series of false statements about the Emergency D-Virus Plan of Care, including:

  • That one of the mixtures in the product, called “ImunStem,” was the first dietary supplement in the United States to be FDA approved as a prescription medicine to treat serious or life-threatening conditions and had specifically been 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; and
  • 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.

According to the indictment, Tieu made these misrepresentations for the purpose of soliciting customers, both patients and health care professionals, to acquire Golden Sunrise products so that he could submit reimbursement claims to the patients’ insurers, including Medicare and Medi-Cal. Tieu dispensed his products to customers in the Porterville area and also shipped the products to other parts of California and the United States.

According to Scott on May 8, 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.

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.

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