High-flying former American catwalk model Laura Brown, who was facing extradition to the US with her lawyer husband, Steve van Rooyen, died in Cape Town two weeks ago under strange circumstances.
The couple fled to SA several years ago when they were indicted by the US authorities for an alleged scam to provide a stem cell “cure” for neurological diseases.
They allegedly offered the fake medicine to terminally ill and paralysed people across the US and Europe.
Brown, 40, died the week before last after she complained of pain in her lower back. “She went to bed and never woke up again,” a close friend, who asked not to be named, said yesterday.
Brown, who had been separated from Van Rooyen, is said to have been suffering from depression since she lost their plush Llandudno mansion due to financial problems.
The couple’s lawyer, Rudi Krause, indicated to The New Age that Van Rooyen, 49, was deeply disturbed by her death and not prepared to talk to the media.
He confirmed that the extradition hearing was due to continue on February 6 next year in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court.
While the couple was still fighting the US Federal Bureau of Investigations’ (FBI’s) request for their extradition, one doctor in the UK, Robert Trossel, was struck from the medical registry in September last year for his role in the alleged scam with Van Rooyen and Brown. He is one of several doctors in the US and Europe using the couple’s stem cell product.
During his hearing, it was said that Trossel made outlandish and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of injections of stem cells in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and other diseases.
The hearing panel found that Trossel also provided bizarre additional treatment, called Aqua Tilis therapy, involving so-called antioxidant steam and magnetic field generators. In at least four patients’ treatment, the stem cells the British doctor injected them with included “material containing bovine brain and spinal cord live cells”.
Van Rooyen and Brown operated a company, BioMark International, in Atlanta, Georgia. It was shut down by the FBI following a sting operation by the Food and Drug Agency (FDA).
Soon afterwards they fled to SA where they opened a business in Hout Bay for an offshore company, Advanced Cell Therapeutics, based in Rotterdam in The Netherlands, offering stem cell treatment when they were arrested by Interpol and released on R200000 bail.
The therapy offered by them was simple and advertised as: “An injection of 1.5 million stem cells in the abdomen.” Everybody got the same type of cells, regardless of their disease. “Once in the body, the cells migrate to the site of the disease and begin producing the needed cells,” the BioMark information brochure said. If the couple were to be charged in the US and found guilty of 26 counts of wire fraud and 25 counts of cross-border transportation of a misbranded drug, they could face 20 years in jail.
The FBI’s lengthy international investigation into Van Rooyen and Brown’s activities resulted in a 51-page indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Atlanta in March 2006, but by that time they had fled to SA.
They have treated about 800 patients in the US and in Europe, charging up to $26000 (about R184000) for each treatment. The cells cost about $1000 per patient.
Van Rooyen moved from Cape Town to Malibu in the US during the late 1990s where he met Brown, an attractive former model and yoga teacher with an interest in healing and health.
This article was published by the New Age on September 5, 2011.
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