Impostor doctor in SF dupes patients worldwide

February 3, 2010 6:38:02 PM PST
A fake Bay Area doctor's past has finally caught up with him and he is now in jail in San Francisco. Police say he masqueraded as a world-renowned physician, performing questionable medical procedures on people who came to him with their ailments.

Prosecutors say they have identified 38 victims, but they believe there are many more. They say this impostor probably has victims as far away as Sweden, where he once lived.

His unwitting patients called him "Dr. Syed." His real name is Timothy Syed Andersson and he is not a doctor.

"Essentially, this guy is a con man," San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris said.

Andersson claims on his website and brochure that he is a distinguished dermatologist, that he was schooled in Sweden and England, and that he attended UC San Francisco and Harvard. It even has pictures of him lecturing at medical conventions and the testimonials are "incredible."

"He even, we believe the evidence will show, Photoshopped photographs of himself, with individuals such as Julia Roberts and Elizabeth Hurley, purporting to be the dermatologist who treated those two individuals," Harris said.

The district attorney says Andersson preyed on immigrants who did not know much about American medical practices. Almost all of his patients were from the South Asian community. Court documents say Andersson's home in San Francisco was also his medical office and that he began his ruse about six years ago.

Playing doctor was apparently lucrative.

"He charged his victims anywhere from $1,000, to in the most extreme case, $15,000 for these procedures," Harris said.

Prosecutors say the procedures included everything from curing cancer to removing varicose veins. Senior Investigator Craig Stewart described one painful case.

"It consisted of sticking needles into her veins and drawing blood out with no anesthesia whatsoever," he said. "I think it was 20 or 25 times that he stuck needles into her legs."

One of his most popular products was sold on his website to people around the world. It was a miracle cream that could do everything from getting rid of stretch marks to growing hair. It cost a pretty penny at $125 for a small one or two ounce jar.

When asked if this was just a harmless con job Harris says, "You be the judge."

"There was one victim in particular who, after being mistreated by this defendant, quit her job and would not leave her home because her face was so badly damaged," she said.

Andersson was arrested Tuesday and charged with practicing medicine without a license, grand theft and perjury. The judge set bail at $1 million.

No one answered the door at Andersson's home Wednesday and he has yet to retain an attorney.