Nearly 2½ years after 60 Minutes labeled him a 21st century snake-oil salesman, former La Mesa merchant Larry Stowe has pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Along with a partner from Brownsville, TX, who also pleaded guilty, Stowe faces a five-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine for one conspiracy conviction and up to three years and additional fines for other convictions.
On the verge of trial, Stowe faced a 24-count indictment alleging he introduced a misbranded and unapproved drug into interstate commerce, according to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson in Houston.
Stowe on Friday admitted that beginning in January 2006, he used several businesses, including Stowe BioTherapy Inc. in La Mesa’s downtown Village, and The Stowe Foundation to promote a treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, according to Magidson’s office.
Under a treatment protocol called Applied Biologics, which included stem cell therapy, “Stowe falsely represented to patients that this treatment protocol had been reviewed by all levels of the FDA and was effective in the treatment of ALS, MS and Parkinson’s. There is currently no cure for these diseases,” the government said.
“These pleas are a victory for the American public, in demonstrating the FDA’s commitment to investigating cases of individuals and businesses that prey on the sick and vulnerable with phony medical treatments,” said Patrick Holland, special agent of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
“The FDA will continue to aggressively pursue perpetrators of such acts, and ensure that they are punished to the full extent of the law.”
In September 2010, La Mesa Mayor he had been surprised and shocked that Stowe had an office in La Mesa—at 8341 La Mesa Blvd—and “the city was totally unaware of what this slime ball [was] doing.”
Stowe’s La Mesa office closed within a week of the segment's first airing.
60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley’s report piqued the interest of federal regulators, including the Food and Drug Administration, La Mesa police Capt. David Bond said two years ago.
“When LMPD learned about Mr. Stowe, we contacted the District Attorney’s Office and FDA and determined that it was being investigated by the FDA, Texas Division,” Bond said. “LMPD did not conduct an investigation into this matter.”
Stowe, 59, was charged along with Francisco Morales, 52, of Brownsville. Stowe’s most recent address is in Illinois, but he also once worked out of Texas.
A press release Friday added:
Stowe further admitted that one of the unapproved drug products was a product called patient specific transfer factors. In order to produce this product, he obtained the services of a pathologist in Bryan/College Station, Texas. He then directed patients to send samples of their blood to the pathologist for the purpose of growing bacteria that would later be used to create the patient specific transfer factors. Stowe hired a laboratory in South Carolina to receive the bacteria which was then fed to chickens.
The eggs produced by these chickens were later freeze dried and the powder from the eggs were placed in capsules and sold to patients. Stowe admitted he knew the manufacturing process and the product itself was not approved by the FDA for that treatment of human diseases.
In January 2010, a person diagnosed with ALS had contacted Stowe about his treatment protocol. Stowe informed this person he would benefit from the treatment protocol and falsely stated it had been reviewed by all levels of the FDA. As a result, Stowe was paid $47,000 for drug products not approved for the treatment of any human disease.
Mayor Madrid said that after the April 18 60 Minutes broadcast he had “extensive discussions" with the executive producer of the program at his New York office.
Stowe BioTherapy was a member of the La Mesa Village Merchants Association and operated there for perhaps five years, former bookstore owner Deena While said in 2010.
While said she never met Stowe. Instead, “we had a very nice [Stowe] representative, a model member, who attended every merchant meeting and volunteered much needed support to the events hosted by the LMVMA, such as Antique Street Faire, Car Show, Oktoberfest and Christmas in The Village.”
Stowe’s offices are now owned by Total Thermal Imaging Com Trust, where a chiropractor now works.