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SAN DIEGO – A San Diego doctor was sentenced Friday to 30 days of custody and one year of house arrest for attempting to smuggle hydroxychloroquine into the U.S. and sell COVID-19 “treatment kits” at the beginning of the pandemic.  

According to officials with the U.S. Department of Justice, Jennings Ryan Staley attempted to sell what he described as a “medical cure” for the coronavirus, which was really hydroxychloroquine powder that the physician had imported in from China by mislabeling the shipping container as “yam extract.” Staley had attempted to replicate this process with another seller at one point, as well, but the importer told the San Diego doctor that they “must do it legally.” 

Following the arrival of his shipment of the hydroxychloroquine powder, Staley solicited investors to help fund his operation to sell the filled capsules as a “medical cure” for COVID-19. The SoCal doctor told potential investors that he could triple their money within 90 days.  

Staley also told investigators via his plea agreement that he had written false prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine, using his associate’s name and personal details without the employee’s consent or knowledge.  

During an undercover operation, an agent purchased six of Staley’s “treatment kits” for $4,000 and, during a recorded phone call, the doctor bragged about the efficacy of the kits and said, “I got the last tank of . . . hydroxychloroquine, smuggled out of China.”  

When confronted by law enforcement, Staley denied claiming that the kits were a “one hundred percent effective cure” for COVID-19 and said that he would not knowingly give out a prescription without receiving the proper details about who the medication would be going to. Just a week earlier, officials say, Staley had issued a “family pack” of hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, generic Viagra, and other drugs to the undercover agent without any information about the agent’s family being exchanged.  

In addition to the 30 days of custody and one year of home confinement ordered by U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, Staley was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit the $4,000 handed over by the undercover agent. The San Diego doctor also had to forfeit more than 4,500 tablets of pharmaceutical drugs.

“At the height of the pandemic, before vaccines were available, this doctor sought to profit from patients’ fears,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “He abused his position of trust and undermined the integrity of the entire medical profession. We are committed to enforcing the laws of the United States and protecting patients, including prosecuting doctors who choose to commit crimes.” Grossman commended the prosecution team and federal agents from FBI and FDA-OCI, who worked hard pursuing justice in this case. He also commended U.S. Customs and Border Protection for its assistance with the investigation.