A 22-year-old Edmonton scam artist – currently behind bars in the U.S. – has admitted selling bogus cancer drugs on the Internet to at least 65 victims across the world.
Hazim Gaber, a former University of Alberta student, pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Phoenix, Arizona court to five counts of wire fraud, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the plea hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward C. Voss, Gaber admitted using a website he had set up to sell what he falsely claimed was the experimental cancer drug sodium dichloroacetate, known as DCA, to 65 victims in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands between October and November 2007.
According to the plea agreement, Gaber charged $23.68 for 10 grams of the purported DCA, $45.52 for 20 grams and $110.27 for 100 grams, plus shipping.
In actuality, he sent victims a white powdery substance that was later determined through laboratory testing to contain starch, dextrin or lactose and contained no DCA.
According to court documents, the packages with the fake DCA also contained a fraudulent certificate of analysis from a fictitious laboratory and instructions on how to dilute and ingest the bogus DCA.
Gaber also admitted he knew his website, DCAdvice.com, contained false claims that it was the only legal supplier of DCA and falsely claimed it was associated with the University of Alberta.
DCA is an experimental cancer drug that has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use and is highly sought after by cancer patients.
A doctor at the U of A published a report in early 2007 summarizing the results of a study which showed that DCA caused a regression in several cancers, including lung cancer, breast cancer and cancerous brain tumours.
A sentencing hearing for Gaber has been set for Aug. 2.
Gaber faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years on each of the five counts of wire fraud to which he pleaded guilty. He also faces maximum fines of $250,000 per count.
As part of the plea agreement, Gaber agreed to forfeit or cancel any website, domain name or Internet services account related to the fraudulent scheme.
Gaber also admitted in court Tuesday to selling more than 800 pirated copies of business software between February 2007 and December 2008.
Gaber was arrested on July 25 in Frankfurt, Germany and was then extradited to the U.S.
In a press release by the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, special thanks were extended to the Edmonton Police Service, the Alberta Justice special prosecutor’s office, Canada Post, the Competition Bureau of Canada and the Alberta Partnership Against Cross Border Fraud.
In March, an Edmonton judge consented to a request by U.S. authorities – handled by local prosecutors – for the Edmonton Police Service to hand over evidence seized during a July 25 search of an Edmonton home at 8923 154 Ave. where Gaber lived with his parents.
According to court documents obtained by The Edmonton Sun, city police began investigating Gaber after a local woman complained in November 2007 about purchasing what she believed was an unapproved cancer treatment drug known as DCA from a website linked to Gaber.
The experimental drug, made in Mexico, had been sold in the U.S. and also generated local interest when U of A researcher Evangelos Michelakis reported in a scientific journal that DCA could shrink cancerous tumours.
When the local woman could no longer buy DCA from the U.S., she turned to Gaber’s website and purchased some.
She initially complained to the website, but when she got no response, she went to the city police. A detective had the substance analyzed and it was found to not be DCA.
The subsequent investigation turned up the additional 67 victims.
“Several victims reported during interviews that their cancer treatment was interrupted or delayed because of Gaber’s fraudulent scheme,” say the court documents.
Police linked the bogus cancer treatment scam to Gaber by tracing the delivered packages to his Edmonton address. Investigators then used search warrants to get his PayPal records and were able to show the website and domain names had been set up by him in 2007.
The July raid on Gaber’s home found DCA-related stuff, including records of 58 orders for the drug and receipts for dextrose, bromelain powder and arrowroot powder.
According to court documents, a police surveillance team tracked Gaber driving his silver Mercedes Benz from his family home to the U of A campus on Nov. 16, 2007, and watched him using his laptop at the Cameron Library.
Later queries by police revealed Gaber last attended the U of A during the winter semester from January to April 2008 and was required to withdraw for academic reasons.
Edmonton cancer scam artist pleads guilty
By TONY BLAIS, COURT BUREAU
A source says Gaber was in the Engineering faculty and claimed he was part of the nanotechnology department.
Gaber also once tried to get on as a member of the board of directors of the university newspaper, the Gateway.
According to minutes of a 2005 board of directors meeting, Gaber bragged about his profitable e-commerce and website business and said he can “be trusted.”
The source also says a listing that used to be on Gaber’s DCA website brings up the Alibi Store – which provides alibi services such as doctor’s notes for people in discreet relationships or extramarital affairs – and says the site uses the exact same format as a website the FBI states Gaber was using to illegally sell movies and TV shows.
A Google search of Gaber’s name also brings up a site where he was seeking $1 million for hair he claimed came from Britney Spears head when she got her infamous buzz cut in a California salon during a weekend meltdown.