FBI arrest Mount Pleasant man in stem cells conspiracy

Inset photo source: MUSC
Inset photo source: MUSC

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC/AP) - The FBI says an MUSC pathologist from Mount Pleasant has been arrested for his part in a scheme to manufacture and distribute stem cells and stem cell procedures to the public.

FBI officials say 50-year-old Vincent Dammai, without obtaining approval from FDA or university authorities, used university facilities to create stem cells that were later sold.

Also arrested were 52-year-old Francisco Morales of Brownsville, Texas and 48-year-old Alberto Ramon of Del Rio, Texas.

The men allegedly conspired to commit mail fraud and unlawfully distribute stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

The indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury in November but unsealed Tuesday, alleges that Morales who is not licensed as a medical doctor, performed medical procedures, misleading patients into believing he was a doctor. The indictment says he used the name Rio Valley Medical Clinic for mail he received in Brownsville.

The indictment states that Morales received umbilical cords from babies delivered by a co-defendant, Jesus Alberto Ramon, a midwife at Maternity Care Center in Del Rio. Ramon told parents the umbilical cords would be donated for medical research, the indictment said. Instead, Ramon sent the cords to Morales at his Brownsville home.

The indictment accuses Dammai of receiving the cords and using university facilities to harvest stem cells before sending them back to Morales.

The defendants allegedly received more than $1.5 million from patients suffering from incurable diseases.

Federal agents are still looking for 58-year-old Lawrence Stowe who is charged in relation to the case and is considered a fugitive.

MUSC released a statement on Thursday morning in response to the indictment.  It reads:

The Medical University of South Carolina was notified yesterday that Dr. Vincent Dammai, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at MUSC, was arrested by federal authorities. MUSC has placed Dr. Dammai on administrative leave pending the resolution of the matter.  His laboratory and office have been locked and secured. MUSC was made aware of these concerns last year by Federal authorities and has fully cooperated in the agency's investigation.  The federal authorities have stated that the alleged stem cell work was conducted without the knowledge of the Medical University, and they have made no allegations of any inappropriate activity on the part of the University or any of its representatives.

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