Former Cancer Center Operator Goes on Trial
McALLEN, Texas (AP) _ The former operator of a cancer clinic used the promise of amazing treatments to lure patients to Mexico, where he swindled them out of their money, a federal prosecutor charged.
James Gordon Keller, who ran ″alternative treatment″ clinics in Louisiana and in Matamoros and Tijuana, Mexico, charged thousands of dollars for worthless cures, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacker Jr. said Monday at the opening of Keller’s trial on fraud charges.
″It’s a story, a scheme built on deception, built on lies,″ Mosbacker said. ″A scheme to take $3,000 - up front - from people who were dying from cancer, from people who were reaching an end point.″
Keller is accused in a 13-count federal indictment handed down in 1984 of using interstate communications to swindle cancer patients with unapproved and unproven treatments at the Matamoros clinic.
He moved his operation to Matamoros in 1983 after his clinic in Baton Rouge, La., was shut down by a state district judge’s injunction prohibiting him from practicing medicine without a license.
He moved to Tijuana in 1984 at the time of an FBI-led investigation into his practice. The Tijuana clinic also has been shut down.
The treatments consisted in part of administering injections of a substance called ″Tumorex,″ which Keller said would cure 80 percent to 100 percent of patients if they used it before undergoing traditional treatment, the indictment said.
Keller was arrested by the FBI at the Mexico-California border on March 18. He is being held at the Cameron County Jail on $5 million bond.
Mosbacker painted Keller as a fraud who preyed on people who were running out of hope.
The prosecutor enumerated a long list of cases in which patients had been treated at the Matamoros clinic, only to eventually die of cancer.
Keller’s attorney, Gerald Goldstein, said his client had given up everything to treat those who were suffering.
″Jim Keller is a true believer,″ he said. ″Jim Keller is not a stranger to this fear, to the pain, to the vulnerability of being a victim of this disease.″
One prosecution witness, the widow of a former Keller patient, said that his treatments were not what had been promised.
Jean DeLance said that she and her husband, David Swaner, who died of cancer in 1983, paid about $4,000 for Keller’s treatment.
Swaner was hooked up to a device that gave Tumorex injections and purportedly cured his disease, Ms. DeLance said.
″Toward the end, when he was finished, Jim said he (Swaner) didn’t have any cancer in his body,″ she said.
Although Swaner followed a diet prescribed by Keller, he was bedridden within about three or four months and was dead by the end of the year, Ms. DeLance said.
The prosecution said it will present about 40 witnesses during the trial, which is expected to last about two weeks.
Of nine other defendants named in the federal indictment, Keller’s son, David Guy Keller, was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 45 days in prison and five years probation in 1985.
Other defendants pleaded guilty to lesser offenses and received short jail sentences or probation.
Keller’s brother, Ronald Joseph Keller, and June Aurora Douglas, who allegedly gave intravenous injections at the clinic, are fugitives.