UPDATE: Former Va. Doctor Arrested Again -- in Thailand
Former Virginia doctor Hellfried E. Sartori, 67, who was imprisoned for treating patients with questionable remedies, was arrested last month in Thailand, accused of doing something similar.
When Sartori was last seen in the United States, he was headed to prison in Virginia to serve five years for practicing medicine without a license. Fairfax County prosecuted him after he was found to have injected seriously ill people with ozone at a clinic in Annandale. It's a controversial treatment, but with some proponents, and a Fairfax judge told him that "if it is a proper treatment, it's to be administered by a doctor."
Sartori was released from prison in February 2003, Virginia records show.
He had used questionable treatments since the early 1980s. In 1981, a front-page article in The Washington Post detailed terminal cancer patients traveling from near and far to Sartori's house in Rockville for injections of an industrial chemical solvent and to sprinkle cesium chloride on their food. Sartori said the cesium chloride would shrink tumors.
Soon, he attracted attention from regulators. He was arrested in Maryland, but the charges were later dismissed because of an error by the judge. He moved to the District, which revoked his medical license in 1985, with Maryland, Virginia and 12 other states soon following suit.
He spent time in Utah and New York and was convicted in both states of practicing without a license. In 1998, Fairfax police arrested him after a man who underwent ozone treatment had a heart attack and a woman had a stroke.
Sartori apparently headed south -- way south -- to Australia. Newspapers there report that he established a clinic in Perth, in western Australia, using the name Abdul-Haqq Sartori, and was again handing out cesium chloride. Australian police allege that four cancer patients taking the treatment died under Sartori's care just days after arriving at his house. A month later, two more people died.
Sartori also opened a clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and married a 33-year-old Thai woman, according to Australian news reports. Authorities said Australians and others would travel to Thailand for Sartori's treatments. Thai authorities said that at least one person receiving ozone treatment from Sartori died and that several other deaths were being investigated.
Thai police arrested Sartori on July 10 and charged him with fraud and practicing medicine without a license.
A reporter from the Australian Associated Press traveled to Chiang Mai to interview Sartori in jail. "I have not committed any crime," Sartori said through the bars. "All I did was to try to help people after they approached me."
He said the woman who died in Thailand "bled to death because of the incompetence of the staff at that hospital." Sartori added, "I intend to sue them for $20 million as soon as I get out of here."
Sartori said he had been living in Thailand "on and off" for the past 10 years. He neglected to mention his uninterrupted imprisonment in Virginia.
If convicted, Sartori faces a term of up to five years in a Thai prison.
-- Tom Jackman