SAN LEANDRO (KGO) -- "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days," sounds like an amazing diet, but a San Lorenzo doctor has lost his license in connection with the program after a state undercover investigation.
The diet involves eating just 500 calories a day, and that can be a serious shock to your system. The bottom line--make sure a doctor is directly overseeing your diet if you're going to try something this extreme.
There is a connection between a medical office in San Lorenzo and a spa 400 miles away. People from both locations now have criminal convictions in connection with the A Slim Me diet plan.
"We had no clue that what we were doing was incorrect," said Maryanne Kuzara who works on the program. "It tells the body to take every single nutrient that's locked in the fat, flush it into the blood stream to be utilized."
HCG is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy, and in prescription form, it's normally used for fertility treatments. The FDA has not approved HCG as a diet aide saying, "There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss," and that they've received reports of "pulmonary embolism, depression, cerebrovascular issues, cardiac arrest and death" associated with HCG injections for dieting.
"Cause really, if you want to do a self-injection, we'll do one today," said Kuzara's sister Therese Rickard, who was caught treating a patient on hidden camera.
When asked what the worst case scenario is in a situation like this, Cassandra Hockenson of the Medical Board of California said, "Somebody could have died."
When the state medical board received a complaint about A Slim Me's HCG program, they sent an undercover investigator.
The owner's sister offered prescription HCG injections without a doctor having seen the patient, as required by law.
"An individual could be diabetic and they don't know it and who's checking, you know, I mean who's looking at them to see if there's more that they need, that's why it's so important," Hockenson continued.
Investigators learned that the spa's doctor lived 400 miles away in San Lorenzo. Allen Fujimoto, 83, declined to speak with us on camera, citing health issues. In his interview with investigators, he admitted training A Slim Me's owner and her sister once in 2009 and that they purchased HCG using his license.
"They dispense the medication and then I sign it late," he said.
Fujimoto also claimed he visited the spa every two months to review charges and that he rarely saw patients at A Slim Me during the past seven years.
The California medical board took away Fujimoto's license, effective this past New Year's Eve and he pled guilty to aiding and abetting an unlicensed practice of medicine. So did Kuzara. Her sister pled guilty to the unlicensed practice of medicine--all misdemeanors.
You would think a criminal conviction that brought a $1,000 fine, suspended jail sentence and three years of probation, Mary Anne Kuzara would be careful about how she runs her business now.
We asked an orange county woman to call A Slim Me for an HCG appointment just two-and-a-half weeks ago.
"And they said, 'Okay, well the doctor will be in at 12.'"
When Taylor arrived, no doctor. She tells us it was Kuzara, who described the supposed benefits of HGC and then a physician's assistant offered an injection right then and there.
"Other than him telling me he could inject me, that was like, the end of our conversation," Taylor said.
Kuzara says she has a new doctor and that his assistant spoke with Taylor that day. If she had decided to go through with the injection the physician's assistant would have done a more thorough medical exam.
"And that if they had decided to get on the program, he would have written them a prescription and he would have filed it for them," said Kuzara.
The medical board tells us a health care professional should actually do the consultation from the start so they're taking another look at the spa and how it works.
Kuzara says she has just sold most of her interest in the business. By the way you can take HCG for weight loss if a doctor approves, but it's considered an off-label use.
Bay Area diet doctor peddles extreme weight loss, loses license