SAN DIEGO–A woman posing as a medical doctor has been charged with multiple felony counts of treating patients without a medical license and grand theft.
Kathleen Ann Helms, 57, claimed to be a medical doctor and promised patients she could cure Lyme Disease.
Helms was arraigned Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court on eleven felony counts. She pleaded not guilty and faces up to 12 years, 8 months years in state prison if convicted of all the charges.
“By posing as an M.D., misdiagnosing people and then charging thousands of dollars for what amounted to a fake and dangerous cure, this defendant showed a callous disregard for her victims,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “Our Consumer Unit works to hold individuals who pose as physicians accountable for their actions and the harm done to their victims.”
Helms told patients she was a medical doctor, ‘diagnosed’ them with Lyme Disease and charged them thousands of dollars, infusing the patients with a non-FDA approved chemical solvent known as Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) and what she claimed were bovine stem cells. One of the patients became seriously ill, was rushed to the hospital and treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for organ failure. The victim was not expected to live and has still not fully recovered from her injuries. Helms is not a licensed medical doctor, osteopath or naturopath.
The District Attorney’s Consumer Unit is prosecuting Helms, who remains under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Medical Board of California and the District Attorney’s Office, which believes there may be more victims.
“This case is a reminder that consumers need to verify the credentials of health care providers, particularly when seeking alternative medical therapies,” said Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before.”
In a similar criminal case prosecuted by the District Attorney last year, a Bonita man who posed as a doctor and offered patients non-FDA-approved dietary supplements as alternative remedies for cancer, arthritis and other ailments was convicted, sentenced to a year in jail and fined $60,000. Kurt Walter Donsbach, 75, pleaded guilty to 13 felony charges, including practicing medicine without a license and selling misbranded drugs.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the District Attorney’s Office at (619) 531-3507.
Helms remains in custody on $250,000 bail. A readiness conference has been scheduled for August 24.