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One was convicted of grand theft in a real estate scam. Two others admitted to elaborate Medicare schemes that siphoned millions from taxpayers. Nearly a dozen miles from the iconic beaches of South Florida, the four convicted felons ran facilities that became assembly lines for patients from across the country seeking the latest body sculpting procedures at discount prices.
And at those businesses, at least 13 women have died after surgeries. Nearly a dozen others were hospitalized with critical injuries, including punctured internal organs. The state health department was alerted to the casualties. Plastic surgery experts warned lawmakers to take control of the centers by screening owners and boosting regulation.
Four times, legislators tried. Four times they failed to muster enough support to change the law, even as the toll at the four businesses continued to rise: two dead inno action; another dead inno action; three dead instill no action. At Seduction Fat women seeking guys in Leggs Jardon, a year-old woman went into kidney failure and nearly bled to death as she languished in a back room for six hours before her mother found her, hospital records and a state complaint show.
At New Life Plastic Surgery and Strax Rejuvenation, women died after their doctors injected fat into their muscles in a popular procedure known as the Brazilian butt lift. A manager of the clinic, Evelyn Parrado, was granted permission to run the cosmetic surgery center during the day while spending her nights under house arrest on the felony charge. Representatives of three of the clinics — Spectrum, Strax and New Life — told USA TODAY that criminal histories have no bearing on the way the centers are run and that their facilities meet all state safety requirements to carry out procedures.
Jeffry Davis, a co-founder of Strax Rejuvenation, pointed out Fat women seeking guys in Leggs his convictions on federal bank fraud and tax evasion were nearly a quarter-century ago, in The president of Seduction declined to answer written questions about the business or the involvement of her husband, who was convicted in a mortgage fraud case. The role of clinic operators varies greatly but can include hiring doctors, ordering drugs, scheduling surgeries, and overseeing risk management to cut down on deaths and injuries.
Health care experts say a criminal history — especially a conviction for financial crimes — is among the most important factors in deciding who should be allowed to run a center. Clinic operators are expected to follow a litany of health regulations that require them to put safety over profit, said Michael Gonzalez, an Ohio lawyer who advises medical institutions on hiring practices. Florida legislators in Tallahassee are back this year with another proposal that would give the state the power for the first time to shut down clinics and impose other punishments.
The bill was introduced by Sen. The proposal has gone further than bills, clearing three Senate committees and two House panels — all unanimously. Yet critics continue to question whether a legislature historically opposed to regulation will support the crackdown. They point out that even as lawmakers turned down past attempts at stricter oversight, they approved millions of dollars to promote Florida as a destination for medical tourism, with plastic surgery as one of its big draws. Nicola Mason, a Maryland woman with deep, jagged scars along her lower stomach that she blames on an operation at Spectrum inwonders why it has taken so long for the state to act.
A year-old woman was given lethal doses of opioids by her doctor during a face lift ina state malpractice probe found.
Another woman died three years later after a neck lift during which her doctor gave her a dangerous mix of sedatives and then failed to monitor her, state investigators reported. Eight deaths in eight years, according to autopsy and state records. None of them made a difference. Florida legislators passed laws decades ago that allowed the state to discipline doctors who owned clinics and practiced there.
They never envisioned that private investors would jump into the industry, too. That loophole means people without medical degrees can own clinics that break state laws with little chance of being shut down, even if they leave patients dead. One of those clinics was Strax, which opened in and became the first of the large, high-volume clinics that can create unique risks for patients. By paying doctors strictly on commission and offering cut-rate prices, the clinics often operate with packed waiting rooms and busy surgical suites, and at times leave patients to fend for themselves after procedures.
State inspectors have cited Strax's two clinics more than 45 times in the past six years for violations that included dirty operating areas, cracked and worn equipment, and no records to show doctors examined patients to clear them for surgeries. Davis, Strax's manager, defends the model.
He says the physicians control how many surgeries they do each day and the facility's medical director makes sure patients are safe for their procedures. But records show about half the doctors who have worked at Strax — 11 total — have been disciplined by medical boards during their careers for charges that included unethical conduct and malpractice in death and injury cases. For Dr. So, when she decided to get a Brazilian butt lift, she chose Strax again.
And because she had had surgery at Strax before, Fat women seeking guys in Leggs trusted them. His year-old mother had worked as a lab technician in Nassau for years before getting her medical degree with a specialty in surgery while raising her two sons. She was working as a general practice physician in late July when she traveled to Florida for her second surgery. And once she has her mind set on something, she does it.
Hours later, Thompson was at work when his girlfriend called to say she was nervous because it seemed his mother had been in surgery too long. The next call was to tell him his mother was being rushed in an ambulance to a hospital.
The third time, her heart stopped for good. The autopsy showed Thompson died from multiple clots of fat blocking the primary blood vessels in her lungs: a fat embolism. Mark Leibowitz, an attorney for Dr. Christopher Kelly, Thompson's surgeon at Strax, said his client did nothing wrong.
However, three board certified plastic surgeons who reviewed the autopsy for USA TODAY said the fat embolism that led to her death is caused when a surgeon injects fat too deep in the muscle, veins are torn, and the fat seeps into the bloodstream. Medical studies have been published nearly every year since documenting the dangers of doctors injecting fat too deep into that danger zone.
The Florida medical board is now considering adopting an unprecedented standard of care rule that would ban doctors from injecting fat too deep during butt lifts, said Christopher Nuland, attorney for the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons. Records show Kelly is a board-certified plastic surgeon and graduate of the University of Iowa Medical School.
Kelly voluntarily withdrew his to practice in October In anthe Florida Department of Health wrote that there were no public complaints or discipline associated with his and that he can ask to return to an active status at any time. Thompson filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kelly and Strax in Junebut the attorneys for the family withdrew from the case and it was voluntarily dismissed 11 months later.
Bystate Sen. Eleanor Sobel began meeting with the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons, which had complained about Strax and similar clinics cropping up in Fat women seeking guys in Leggs Florida. Sobel, a Democrat, proposed a bill to allow the state to shutter the worst offenders and screen owners for criminal backgrounds, giving Florida the option of barring ex-offenders from running clinics.
The Senate backed the legislation, but it failed to win support in a crucial House subcommittee. That same year, state agents inspected Strax and cited it for serious violations, including medical records that were incomplete — nonexistent in some cases — and staff members failing to show they regularly monitored patients under anesthesia. In a repeat ofthe same subcommittee killed it. Not long after, a series of critical medical mistakes in another felon-run clinic would leave several women hospitalized, one in a coma for 28 days. Driven by social media ad blitzes and telemarketers, the clinics continued to grow.
They rode the popularity of a new body-sculpting procedure, promoted by rap singers and reality show stars like Kim Kardashian: the Brazilian butt lift.
The two partners closed their drug store in and moved some proceeds from the business into their cosmetic surgery center, one of their lawyers disclosed in court. Before Hernandez began serving a month prison term, he was granted permission to keep running Spectrum while on supervised release. The clinic had hired several doctors not certified in plastic surgery, including Osakatukei Omulepu, who had failed his board exams three times.
InOmulepu carried out operations at the clinic that led to devastating injuries. Donna McRae, 35, a mother from Michigan, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, and Nyosha Fowler, 34, a mother of two from Alabama, was in a coma for nearly a month before regaining consciousness, state malpractice records and interviews show. Despite the state launching a malpractice investigation and a local hospital stripping Omulepu of his privileges, Spectrum continued to allow him to carry out surgeries for months, state health records show.
In September, Nicola Mason, the year-old Maryland woman, alleged in a complaint to the health department that Omulepu performed the wrong surgery on her — a tummy tuck instead of a butt lift — leaving her with unsightly scars. Hernandez declined to comment, saying he was not connected to the clinic anymore. However, two years later, while working at a competing clinic, Seduction Cosmetic Center, a patient died after surgery by Omulepu.
The cause of her death: fat embolism. Medical experts say the only way such an embolism occurs is when a doctor injects the fat into areas they are warned to avoid: the deep gluteal muscles. Omulepu says the surgery brings high risks and he regrets what happened in the operating room that day. He said Mason initially ed up for a butt lift, but when he examined her, he determined she was not a good candidate, and they agreed she would get a tummy tuck instead, his surgery records show. At the urging of the Florida Society Fat women seeking guys in Leggs Plastic Surgeons, Sobel stepped forward with yet another bill inasking lawmakers to require background checks on owners.
This time the bill was especially harsh on felony offenders: They would be automatically banned. He fought the charges in a state appeals court and temporarily won back the right to practice.
He returned to work and five weeks later performed the surgery at Seduction that led to the patients death by fat embolism. He lost his again and is no longer practicing. The fatal surgery at Seduction drew the attention of the Florida health department. State agents reviewed the operation, and the medical examiner investigated the death. She knew Fat women seeking guys in Leggs butt lift would be far more expensive if performed by a board-certified surgeon closer to home.
Rayner Aguiar, 36, took over the center in Aventura after he was convicted of falsifying paperwork to inflate the value of a home in Aguiar did not respond to interview requests. Jardon would say only that clinics run by doctors are more dangerous but offered no proof. Call said she became concerned the day she arrived for her examination to find a crowded waiting room, with patients walking through the lobby in their gowns after surgery.
Then Call said she learned from her doctor that she would be among 11 surgeries the next day. But "he said, 'Don't worry. You're the first one in,' '' she recalled. With her mother outside in the waiting room, Call went into surgery at about 9 a. By evening, Basham asked to see her daughter. When a staff member said she would have to continue to wait, Basham said she rushed to the rear of the clinic and started "banging on doors.
Basham remembers dialing and then being allowed into a back room, where she found Call in a bed, pale and unresponsive. A former nursing student, she said she was stunned to see her daughter's blood pressure had plummeted. An ambulance rushed Call to Aventura Hospital. They found her in the throes of kidney failure and shock, hospital records state, and in need of an emergency transfusion.
After returning to New York, Call was treated for numbness and other complications that have consumed her life ever since, she said. When she returned to her job four weeks later, she was ased to desk duty at the Bridge Authority. Call said she has difficulty walking longer than five minutes and can no longer run. She said her stomach is covered with deep and unsightly scars from the surgery. Call filed a complaint with the state but said she has not heard back in at least a year.
She said calling the clinic seemed pointless. Members of the powerful Senate health committee considering the most recent reform proposal last month sat quietly in the darkness as a video played on a large screen in the hearing room. With tears in her eyes, a middle-aged mother recalled the daughter who wanted to be a nursing assistant. For the fifth time, the Legislature has taken up a bill to rein in clinics.
Flores is taking no chances, making sure her colleagues understand the stakes. When he was arrested, he used the proceeds from his cosmetic surgery clinic to pay his bail, court records show.Fat women seeking guys in Leggs
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