Huu Tieu, president and CEO of Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical and Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical in Porterville, was arrested on Tuesday for falsely marketing a COVID-19 treatment.
U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott of the Eastern District of California announced Tieu was arrested after a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment on July 9. Tieu was charged with mail fraud and introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud.
The indictment states from April 25 through July 9, Tieu marketed and sold the herbal mixtures as the “Emergency D-Virus Plan for Care,” which he claimed treated COVID-19. Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical has advertised the plan as a treatment for COVID-19 through several methods, including on its website and on billboards throughout the area.
The indictment states Tieu made the following false statements about the Emergency D-Virus Plan of Care:
That one of the mixtures of the product, ImunStem was the first dietary supplement in the U.S. To be FDA approved as a prescription medicine to treat serious or life-threatening conditions and had been specifically approved to treat COVID-19. The FDA has never approved any Golden Sunrise product for that use and Tieu was told in writing twice ImunStem isn't FDA approved.
That ImunStem was designated as a Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) under the 21st Century Cures Act. Again, the FDA never granted an RMAT designation to any Golden Sunrise product and denied Tieu's request for an RMAT designation for ImunStem in 2017 and made that denial again in writing in 2019.
As late of Tuesday, Golden Sunrise's website was making this claim: “Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical announces on July 01, 2018, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved ImunStem (Olive Leaf, Yarrow, Rosemary, Yucca, and Cinnamon Oil) as the first botanical/herbal medication to treat Serious or Life-threatening diseases or conditions.”
The indictment states Tieu made these misrepresentations for the purpose of soliciting customers, both patients and health care professionals, to acquire Golden Sunrise products so he could submit reimbursement claims to the patients’ insurers, including Medicare and Medi-Cal. Tieu dispensed his products to customers in the Porterville area and also shipped the products to other parts of California and the United States.
On May 8, an undercover investigator with the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office met with Tieu in person, telling him her mother was 68 and sick with COVID-19. The investigator asked Tieu if she should take her mother to the hospital. Tieu responded, “No. You cannot go in there,” and instead, encouraged her to use Golden Sunrise products.
This case was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the California Department of Health Care Services with assistance from the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office and the California Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vincente Tennerelli and Alexandre Dempsey are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Tieu faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the mail fraud counts and three years in prison and a $10,000 fine on the misbranding counts. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.