'Doctor' Promoting Roca Labs Actually A Pediatrician Who Lost His Medical License For Child Porn

from the this-company-seems-so-trustworthy dept

Over the last few weeks we've been writing a bit about the legal efforts of Roca Labs, the company selling an "alternative" to gastric bypass surgery, which is actually a bunch of "industrial food thickening agents" that the company claims will fill up your stomach and not make you want to eat. Whether or not that actually works, the company has a bizarre gag order that it pushes on buyers which forbids them from ever saying anything negative about the company (and requiring them to allow Roca to share any positive results). That was already sketchy enough, but what caught our attention was that the company sued PissedConsumer claiming it was "tortious interference" to request complaints about the company, since so many of its buyers had agreed to this gag clause. We found that legal theory to be quite questionable, in our opinion. Things got even more bizarre after Roca decided to threaten with lawsuits the three former customers who agreed to provide evidence for PissedConsumer (even though it hadn't communicated with two of them for more than three years).

There was a hearing on Wednesday where the court rejected PissedConsumer's request to stop Roca from threatening to sue those customers, though the reasoning is unclear right now (I assume it will come out soon). The court is still considering Roca's request for an injunction against PissedConsumer.

In the meantime, however, Adam Steinbaugh has decided to dig into the Roca Labs story, and found something rather horrifying. A guy that Roca Labs was using to promote their stuff was actually a pediatrician who had lost his medical license because of his involvement with child porn. When Steinbaugh asked Roca about this, Roca suddenly pulled down any and all content on their website and on YouTube (there was a video of "Dr. Ross F." promoting Roca which had been here, but it has now been set to "private").
Steinbaugh summarizes how Roca used Dr. Ross F.:
Roca Labs’ website and YouTube channel are saturated with images of attractive men and women wearing lab coats emblazoned with the caduceus – a symbol commonly associated with doctors and medical professionals — leaving the viewer with the impression that these are educated, licensed professionals. This is a product I can trust!

Until yesterday, Roca Labs held out one such doctor — “Dr. Ross” — as its “Director of Medical Team”, hailing from “NJ, USA.” The company rarely identified him by his full name, instead severing his last name to a mere initial. In a “Letter to Your Doctor”, Dr. Ross described himself as “an independent medical consultant” describing the “Roca Labs Formula” to assure his “fellow doctor” as to its benefits. The letter was signed with his full name, followed by “MD” – medical doctor.
But, he notes, Dr. Ross (whose full name Steinbaugh has redacted) no longer has a medical license:

This allegation is corroborated by an Order of Revocation from the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, which incorporates a plea agreement, and an Order for Non Practice of Medicine from the New York State Department of Health. The substance of the agreement was that the Dr. Ross — a pediatrician — surrendered his licenses to practice medicine in New Jersey and New York and was prohibited from seeking a “license to practice medicine in any jurisdiction at any time in the future.”

The New Jersey order also includes prohibitions which “not only bar[] a licensee from rendering professional services, but also from providing an opinion as to professional practice or its application” and requires “affirmative action to stop advertisements by which his/her eligibility to practice is represented.”

And yet, until earlier this week, "Dr. Ross" claimed to be the medical director at the company and claimed to "review each case for medical accuracy."
In addition to the advertisements above, there’s also this now-deleted post, under the “ask the doctor” in which Dr. Ross F. recounts his role in the company:

I have reviewed thousands of formal inquiries from the public that request to begin using the Roca Labs Formula for weight loss. [...] I review each case individually for medical accuracy. I have been the medical director at Roca Labs for the past year. I was in clinical medical practice for 10 years before moving into pharmaceutical management. I have been involved in the development and ongoing monitoring of the Roca Labs Formula. I work directly with the staff and customers to maintain the highest levels of medical accuracy and safety.

And while it’s unclear whether the feature ever launched, a now-deleted page advertised that the company would soon offer, for thirty-five dollars, online consultations with Dr. Ross to provide “consultation and medical advice.” Another now-deleted post advertised that for a mere $380, the “online medical staff will be at your service with detailed answers and advice 24/7″ — an option known as “be my doctor”, although it’s unclear whether Dr. Ross was employed by Roca at the time.

Of course, all of this disappeared right after Steinbaugh asked Roca about it. In response, Roca (in a long rambling email) said that the removal was not because of his request, but because Roca was "a serious company that acts according to its plans." Steinbaugh asked about those plans but didn't get an answer.
As Steinbaugh notes, it's entirely possible that what Dr. Ross was doing for Roca was legal, but it certainly looks sketchy.

To be sure, the orders of New Jersey and New York explicitly do not require Dr. Ross F. to “affirmatively advise patients or others of the revocation, suspension or surrender” except in response to an inquiry, nor is it entirely clear whether the order prohibits his association and work with Roca Labs. In fact, his precise relationship with the company is entirely unclear: was he merely there to give the appearance that someone whose name is preceded by “Dr.” endorses and gives legitimacy to the company’s “formula”? Or did he have a greater role in the company’s product? If so, did those acts — whatever they were – constitute the practice of medicine? And if there are other doctors — posts on the BBB site by Roca indicate that a doctor reviews qualification forms — what are their qualifications?

Nevertheless, this is the conduct of a company which says that it is “completely transparent” and that “nothing is hidden“: intimidate critics with ominous (and likely baseless) threats of legal action and, when questions are raised, refuse to answer.





Filed Under: contracts, dr ross, gag, gastric bypass surgery, nutraceuticals, reviews
Companies: pissedconsumer, roca labs


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 11:40am

    He probably took a few pictures while at work for some medical reasons then did something that got the book thrown at him.
    You write all the time about politicians talkin about children all the time yet you do the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 11:58am

      Re:

      Read the "Order of Revocation from the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners" link. From the link:
      "for knowingly offering, through any means, [...], which depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act"
      To me that sounds like there was a bit more to it than "a few pictures while at work for some medical reasons".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      The pedophile apologist apparently thinks child porn and writing about politicians using "the children" as an excuse to do anything and everything are the same thing.
      Thats nice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 11:45am

    Not hard to figure out

    It only takes a couple mins to figure out the last name of this doctor is...and based on what I found, the pictures seem to match up too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glen, 10 Oct 2014 @ 11:47am

    I'm glad we found a good replacement for Prenda and Righthaven.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 11:58am

    Roca Labs..we cause you to lose weight by making you stress over whether our paid staff have molested your kids....

    Then they can sell a magical woowoo formula to help you sleep at night...regrow the hair lost to stress...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    LduN (profile), 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:01pm

    If a company needs to state that it's a serious company... it's not a serious company

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:08pm

    Someone should update the article because all of the videos with Dr. Ross hocking Roca Labs products have now been marked as "private". I guess Roca Labs is trying to hide those videos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:20pm

      Re:

      No it was all part of their plan to hide the real truth of their product.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Tim A, 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:27pm

      Re:

      Hey, look, it's already there.

      "When Steinbaugh asked Roca about this, Roca suddenly pulled down any and all content on their website and on YouTube (there was a video of "Dr. Ross F." promoting Roca which had been here, but it has now been set to "private")."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 6:47pm

      Re:

      So now Roca has Dr. Ross showing us his privates on YouTube?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:24pm

    Say it ain't so!

    A sleazy company hires a sleazy ex-doctor to promote their sleazy products? Who'da thunkit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tim A, 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:37pm

    Dr. F!i@n#e$s%m^i&t*h: I'd like to apply for the job of pretending to be a real doctor.

    Roca: It only pays $10 an hour, because we're cheap and sleazy.

    Dr. F!i@n#e$s%m^i&t*h: I've been having trouble finding anything, so this is perfect.

    Roca: You're hired.

    Dr. F!i@n#e$s%m^i&t*h: Great.

    Dr. F!i@n#e$s%m^i&t*h: Oh, and please don't Google me.

    Roca: Deal, and we don't think anyone else will either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Regret, 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:40pm

    FWIW, looking at the doctor's online tracks, his LinkedIn profile still shows "M.D." and his website linked there still lists medical services that he provides. Certainly appears as though he's still involved with medicine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Regret, 10 Oct 2014 @ 12:54pm

    Dr. Ross F. "MD" also appears to be involved with National Health Sherpa (http://www.naturalhealthsherpa.com/about-us).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 1:06pm

    Whoever redacted the attachments ought

    to have continued to the signature block. The name is right there in its entirety.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    New Mexico Mark, 10 Oct 2014 @ 1:29pm

    Interesting trivia

    "wearing lab coats emblazoned with the caduceus – a symbol commonly associated with doctors and medical professionals"

    I didn't see which image they used, but there are two commonly used. The caduceus is two snakes on a pole, sometimes with wings. The Aesculapius is one snake on a pole.

    Aesculapius was the god of medicine in Greek mythology. Ironically, Zeus killed Aesculapius for performing a medical miracle (raising Hippolytus from the dead) and accepting gold for it.

    Even more ironic is the fact that the the caduceus is the symbol of Mercury, the god of commerce. How sadly appropriate.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caduceus

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 2:14pm

    Why does it not come as a surprise that a pedosexual doctor would gravitate to pediatrics?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    KRA, 10 Oct 2014 @ 5:29pm

    He probably took a few pictures while at work for some medical reasons then did something that got the book thrown at him.


    Are you fucking kidding me?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Oct 2014 @ 11:22pm

    I think it does say something when the only "professional" they could hire is banned from doing exactly what he was doing for them.
    Adam didn't want people to get off of the topic of what Roca was doing and into the ZOMG pedophile doctor area, because it is a distraction... however...
    I think it is just a reflection of our society these days.
    We have groups who are supposed to make sure that "professionals" do the job and are not doing wrong, but far to often we see these boards doing nothing like what we expect.
    Police officers are cleared of shooting unarmed subjects, even after an investigation shows there was wrongdoing, and are forced to be taken back into the position (with back pay) where they abused their authority.
    He were have a Dr. who blatantly violated the agreement he signed after wrongdoing, and if not for Roca drawing attention to itself, could have been skating along for a very long time violating his alleged punishment.
    Prenda, Bars... nuff said.

    Perhaps what we should consider is that it might be time to remove these "oversight" groups, and try again. Far to often the "image" of the profession in the public eye trumps what the rules say should happen. Well if we punish him people might lose faith in the "profession"! The much more realistic response is, they did nothing to "him" the profession isn't worthy of any trust.
    They are doing more harm that good to their image, and putting everyone else in danger all to protect an image that only exists in their minds...
    (see also Anti-Terrorism)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2014 @ 9:46am

    Redaction

    Why has the name been redacted?

    There is no US law against publishing the name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Case, 12 Oct 2014 @ 8:40am

      Re: Redaction

      ...but there is no point in publishing it, either.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2014 @ 12:59pm

        Re: Re: Redaction

        Actually, there IS. It sets him up for further, well deserved, sanctions and punishment for violating his agreement with the states involved.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Case, 13 Oct 2014 @ 1:03am

          Re: Re: Re: Redaction

          As usual, reading helps a lot. He lost his license to practice and was barred from "providing an opinion as to professional practice or its application”. In other words, you can't call him as an expert witness in a malpractice suit anymore.

          But being an MD and practicing as a physician are very different things, and he was not barred from making any statements in his capacity as an MD -- be it on actual science or on weight loss woo

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2014 @ 1:01pm

      Re: Redaction

      That's true, but it was only a partial redaction. His full name appears in the signature block of the license revocation letter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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