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Doc who sold hydroxychloroquine early in the pandemic is going to prison for 30 days

May 31, 2022, 3:53 PM UTC

A San Diego doctor who told his patients that he had a miracle cure for COVID-19 in March and April of 2020 has been sentenced to 30 days in prison.

Jennings Ryan Staley pleaded guilty last year to trying to smuggle hydroxychloroquine into the U.S. to sell as part of a coronavirus “treatment kit.” Beyond his prison sentence, he will also be confined to his home for one year, according to U.S. attorneys.

“At the height of the pandemic, before vaccines were available, this doctor sought to profit from patients’ fears,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement. “He abused his position of trust and undermined the integrity of the entire medical profession.”

Staley admitted to working with a Chinese supplier to smuggle in a barrel containing 26 pounds of hydroxychloroquine powder by mislabeling it as “yam extract.” He planned to use this powder as capsules in “treatment kits” he sold to customers of his Skinny Beach Med Spas in the San Diego area at the beginning of the pandemic, promoting them as a “one hundred percent” cure, a “magic bullet,” an “amazing weapon,” and “almost too good to be true” in conversations with an undercover FBI agent who posed as a potential customer. He also claimed the product would provide six weeks of immunity.

“The defendant used a global pandemic to prey on the public’s fear by offering a ‘cure’ for COVID-19, and then lied to FBI agents about it,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy.

Hydroxychloroquine was touted by many, including President Donald Trump, early in the pandemic, but doctors immediately cautioned that it gave no benefit to COVID-19 patients. A later study found that patients treated with the drug were linked to an increased risk of death and heart ailments.

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