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August 30, 2023San Diego, CA, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

HSI San Diego case results in Imperial Valley doctor’s admission to using unapproved cosmetic drugs

SAN DIEGO — An Imperial Valley doctor pleaded guilty Aug. 24 to crimes related to his years-long use of foreign unapproved and misbranded cosmetic drugs. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the FBI, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General investigated this case.

“Injecting unapproved medicines poses a significant threat to public health and can have serious consequences for individuals,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “Together, with our partnered agencies, we need to educate people of the dangers caused by using unauthorized botulinum toxin (the active ingredient in Botox, Xeomin and similar products) and thwart those who smuggle and illegally use it for cosmetic procedures.”

Tien Tan Vo, 47, of El Centro, pleaded guilty to receipt of misbranded drugs in interstate commerce and being an accessory after the fact to an accomplice, who smuggled the unapproved drugs into the United States from Mexico.

In his plea agreement, Vo admitted that none of the injectable botulinum toxin or lip fillers used by his clinics between November 2016 and October 2020 was approved for use in the United States. This specifically included a botulinum toxin product called “Xeomeen” and an injectable lip filler called Probcel. Neither product has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Vo acknowledged that he received $100,767 in gross receipts for almost four years of cosmetic services performed with unapproved drugs and devices. As part of his plea agreement, he has agreed to forfeit that amount and pay a fine of $201,534. Vo also agreed to pay restitution to victims of his offense.

In his plea agreement, Vo admitted purchasing most of his unapproved drugs and devices from the operator of a “med spa” in Mexicali, Mexico, who smuggled them into the United States without declaring them.

“All members of our community should be able to trust that their doctor is acting in their best interest,” said acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Haden. “Through this prosecution, we are protecting patients from unapproved and potentially unsafe drugs and will always seek to thwart those who would exploit patients for financial gain.”

“The FDA’s requirements help ensure that patients receive safe and effective medical treatments. Evading the FDA process and distributing unapproved drugs to U.S. consumers will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert M. Iwanicki of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations in Los Angeles. “We will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who traffic in unapproved drugs.”

Sentencing is set for Nov. 16 at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison H. Goddard.

Potential victims related to this case may provide or request information by emailing

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.