A California man who told Central Washington residents that God taught him how to construct a laser that could cure cancer will spend two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to medical fraud.
Edward J. Brown, 67, has been in the Yakima County Detention Center since January, when he was extradited from Ontario, Canada, on charges dating back to 2008. Brown traveled to Yakima multiple times in 2005 from California and Mexico, sometimes through Spokane, meeting with patients who believed he had a medical license and had cured others of ailments including cancer and allergies, according to court documents.
At least two young children died after their parents and grandparents allowed Brown to use his laser to treat their cancer.
One patient told federal investigators Brown claimed to have treated actress Elizabeth Hurley’s wrinkles with his laser, which is an industrial model used in soldering and also has some medical applications for easing muscle pain.
Brown falsely claimed to have a medical degree from the Oral Roberts University School of Medicine.
His lawyer told the court Brown’s actions were not malicious.
“Mr. Brown may not have had any scientific or medical evidence that the laser machine he was using on individuals was able to cure or relieve medical conditions, but had anecdotal indications that it had reversed some conditions or made some individuals more comfortable,” Rick Hoffman wrote to the court on behalf of Brown, asking for a yearlong sentence. Brown was instead sentenced to two years in prison and three years of supervised release following his incarceration.
In a written statement announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington Michael Ormsby said his office would prioritize cases involving “public health hoaxes.”
“Prosecution of these types of cases is a priority in the Eastern District of Washington particularly where the victims, like the victims upon whom Brown preyed, are vulnerable, sickly and desperate,” Ormsby said in the statement.
Restitution in the case could reach as much as $20,000, though investigators have evidence Brown took in as much as $118,400 in payments for the fraudulent treatments. Prosecutors said Brown charged $300 for each laser session and offered discounts if multiple family members employed his services.
Many of his patients ceased taking their pain medications, according to court documents. One family had to sneak their father’s pain medication into his food because of his trust in Brown, according to prosecutors.
In addition to masquerading as a licensed physician, prosecutors said, Brown told his patients that he had constructed the laser under directions from God. He bought the device for $200,000 from a retailer in California, according to court documents.
Brown told victims “that God told him to use his laser to shine light on darkness and referred to cancer tumors as ‘darkness’; and that he had provided laser ‘treatments’ to a cancer patient with 8,000 to 9,000 cancer tumors,” according to allegations contained in a grand jury indictment.
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