The San Diego County Attorney's Office is looking for additional victims following the arraignment Wednesday of a La Mesa man accused of claiming to be a doctor and defrauding HIV and cancer patients.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced that Keith Allen Barton, 50, has been charged with multiple felony counts of treating patients without a medical license, identity theft, and grand theft.
Barton allegedly claimed to be a medical doctor and told patients that he could cure cancer and HIV. A practice for a Dr. Keith Barton is listed at 8130 La Mesa Blvd., Suite 50, according to a website, but Tanya Sierra, a District Attorney's Office spokeswoman, said she could not confirm the city where he treated patients.
The defendant was arraigned Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court on five felony counts. He pleaded not guilty and could serve up to 5 years and 8 months in state prison if convicted, officials said.
“By posing as (a) doctor and charging thousands of dollars for a phony cure, this defendant showed callous disregard for his victims and the medical field,” Dumanis said in a news release. “Our Consumer Unit works to hold individuals who pose as physicians accountable for their actions and the harm done to their victims.”
Barton, who called himself "Dr. Barton," told one woman that he would cure her and her children of HIV. As a result of not receiving proper treatment, one of the children died, according to authorities. The woman paid Barton $18,000 for the treatment. The defendant, who is not a licensed medical doctor, osteopath, or naturopath, shares a name with a real medical doctor who is licensed in California. Barton used the similarity in the name to pass himself off as a licensed physician.
“This case is a reminder that consumers need to be particularly wary of unapproved ‘miracle’ cures, especially when they are offered by practitioners who run clinics south of the border,” said Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas.
The district attorney has prosecuted similar cases.
Also this year, the office prosecuted Kathleen Helms, a San Diego woman who pretended to be a doctor and offered patients non-FDA-approved treatments as alternative remedies for autoimmune disorders. Helms pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing later this month, authorities said.
The Consumer Unit last year prosecuted Kurt Walter Donsbach, 75. Donsbach pleaded guilty to 13 felony charges, including practicing medicine without a license and selling misbranded drugs.
The same unit is prosecuting Barton, who remains under investigation by the Medical Board of California and the District Attorney’s Office, which believes there may be more victims. He was arrested on Tuesday. Anyone with information is asked to contact the District Attorney’s Office at 619-531-3507.
The defendant remains in custody on $100,000 bail. A readiness conference is set for at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 18 in Dept. 29 and a preliminary hearing is expected at 8:15 a.m. Jan. 23 in Dept. 11.