Gonzalez’s medical license suspension stands, for now

Doctor pleads not guilty in court
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Placer Herald and Press Tribune editor
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Efrain Gonzalez and Yessennia Candelaria charged in 41-count complaint.

The Placer County District Attorney’s Office has filed charges against Efrain Gonzalez and Yessennia Candelaria. The charges were filed as a result of a lengthy investigation led by investigators from the state Medical Board in connection with Franchise Tax Board, the DEA and the District Attorney’s office.

The couple was scheduled to be arraigned today in Placer County Court on the charges. Gonzalez was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. At the request of Gonzalez’s attorney, Tom Johnson, the arraignment on Candelaria was continued until May 6, in Department 31 of Placer County Superior Court so that she may retain an attorney.

The complaint charges Gonzalez with 37 felony counts, including 15 counts of grand theft by false pretenses and 15 counts of mayhem. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit grand theft, conspiracy to disseminate false or misleading information, three counts of conspiracy to practice medicine without a license and conspiracy to operate a clinic without accreditation, according to a press release from the District Attorney’s Office.

Candelaria Is charged in 24 felony counts, including seven counts of grand theft by false pretenses and seven counts of mayhem. She is also charged with conspiracy to commit grand theft, conspiracy to disseminate false or misleading information, three counts of conspiracy to practice medicine without a license and conspiracy to operate a clinic without accreditation. Candelaria is also charged with felony possession and transportation of a controlled substance and a misdemeanor count of being under the influence of a controlled cubstance.

Gonzalez and Candelaria were arrested March 15 in connection with the execution of search warrants on the couple’s business, Advanced Medical Spa, and their Rocklin home.

“Notwithstanding these charges, the investigation is ongoing and the District Attorney’s Office anticipates further charges will be filed in this matter,” the release said.

Any individual who believes they were victims of Gonzalez should call the Placer County District Attorney’s Office at (916) 543-2570 or California State Medical Board Senior Investigator Roberto Moya at (916) 263-2590.

A Rocklin doctor’s medical license remains suspended following an administrative hearing Friday in Sacramento. The law allows for 15 days for a decision to be made, and the administrative law judge in this case said she may make her decision by the end of next week.

Karen J. Brandt ordered Efrain Diego Gonzalez’s license suspended March 25 in an ex parte hearing, stating in the order that Deputy Attorney General Margaret Phe had made a satisfactory showing that “the likelihood of injury to the public if the instant order is not issued outweighs the likelihood of injury to respondent in issuing the order,” and, “Serious injury will result to the public before this matter may be heard on regular notice.”

A hearing scheduled for Aug. 5 is expected to take two weeks, according to the Office of Administrative Hearings calendar.

In a 95-page complaint filed by the California Medical Board, 15 former patients outline their experiences at Gonzalez’s Advanced Med Spa cosmetic surgery clinic on Sunset Boulevard. The complaints range from allegations of incorrectly sized breast implants to nerve damage resulting from a botched breast augmentation, and one woman who claims she awoke to find an unlicensed surgical technician, not Gonzalez, applying sutures to her abdomen.

According to the complaint, Gonzalez obtained his medical degree from the Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine in Puerto Rico in 1991, and his license was suspended for five years by the Puerto Rico Medical Board for practicing surgery without certification.

Gonzalez had held his physician’s and surgeon’s certificate from the Medical Board of California since 2006, and his board certification is in obstetrics and gynecology, although he practices mainly in cosmetic surgery, according to the complaint. There’s no law in California to prohibit a doctor from practicing surgery in his office, according to Dr. Terry Zimmerman, president of the Greater Sacramento Society of Plastic Surgeons, who said in a previous interview he has treated more than 10 patients who reportedly suffered botched surgeries at the hands of Gonzalez.

Phe and Gonzalez’s attorney, Albert Garcia, returned to Brandt’s hearing room Friday for the hearing on the suspension, which Brandt ordered to remain in effect until she issues her decision, which could come by the end of next week, she said. Gonzalez was not present.

Garcia argued that Gonzalez’s license should not have a blanket suspension that prohibits him from practicing any form of medicine.

“Dr. Gonzalez is willing to accept a restriction against engaging in cosmetic surgery, because that’s where all the issues have arisen,” he said, pointing out that Gonzalez maintained his OB/GYN certification for a decade and the only reason it lapsed in 2011, he said, was because “at that point he was pretty much immerged in the field of cosmetic surgery, so he didn’t feel it was necessary to maintain that certification.”

“By suspending him from being able to practice medicine at all, I think, we’re really going beyond what’s really necessary to protect the public,” Garcia said.

Phe countered that the alleged violations of the Medical Practice Act go beyond cosmetic surgery to include reported aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine and failure to maintain adequate medical records.

“Although this issue, or this case, began as a cosmetic procedure problem, it actually grew,” Phe said. “It’s kind of like a root that just continues to add onto or just grow and create additional problems. The bottom line here is that the practice of medicine is an art that encompasses more than just the specific procedure that is being performed at the time of surgery.”

Garcia also argued the impartiality of one of the experts who reviewed the case, pointing out that she has given media interviews critical of Gonzalez. Phe responded that no affidavits have been submitted by Gonzalez’s team to refute the expert’s findings.

Brandt has 15 days to issue her order, although she said it may come sooner.

“I will leave it this way,” Brandt said. “The ex parte interim suspension order will remain in full force and effect until such time as my final order comes out.”

As it stands, Gonzalez is prohibited from practicing any aspect of medicine or surgery in California; advertising himself as practicing or available to practice medicine; being present in any location or office maintained for the practice of medicine unless he is a patient or visitor of family or friends; and possessing, ordering, purchasing, receiving, prescribing, furnishing, administering or otherwise distributing controlled substances or dangerous drugs as defined by federal or state law.