California physician sentenced for smuggling drug to sell as COVID-19 'miracle cure' 

A San Diego, Calif.-based physician was sentenced for attempting to profit by marketing a "miracle cure" for COVID-19, the U.S. Justice Department said May 27. 

Jennings Ryan Staley, MD, 44, admitted he tried to smuggle hydroxychloroquine into the U.S. to sell in his COVID-19 "treatment kits." He worked with a Chinese supplier to try to smuggle what he believed contained more than 26 points of hydroxychloroquine powder by mislabeling it as yam extract.

Dr. Staley said he intended to sell the powder as a business venture in March and April 2020 and sold his kits to customers of his Skinny Beach Med Spas. He also solicited investors.

In his plea agreement, Dr. Staley admitted to writing a hydroxychloroquine prescription for one of his employees, misusing the employee’s name and personal identifying information. Dr. Staley also admitted he impeded and sought to obstruct the federal investigation by lying to federal agents. 

Last year, Dr. Staley pleaded guilty to one count of importation contrary to law, and was sentenced May 27 to 30 days of custody and one year of home confinement. He was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and ordered to forfeit $4,000 paid by an undercover agent who purchased six of his treatment kits.

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