King Con Returns

A bumbling justice system has allowed self-proclaimed AIDS miracle worker Basil Wainwright to continue peddling hope -- with harrowing results

Both processes rely on the curative value of ozone. The bluish gas, composed of three oxygen atoms bonded together, is best known as the atmosphere's fast-decaying protective layer. The Food and Drug Administration forbids its use on humans in the United States, unless the user is granted a waiver. In Europe, however, clinicians used ozone for decades to treat a variety of ailments ranging from yeast infections to cancer. Despite tomes of anecdotal evidence, the gas has yet to be scientifically proven as a cure for anything. In fact, because ozone is a powerful killer of cells, it can prove lethal in high dosages.

In recent years holistic practitioners in the States have looked to ozone as a miracle cure for the AIDS epidemic. They, along with greedy investors, have proved easy pickings for Wainwright's messiah charm and uncanny way with technobabble.

"Basil hit the ground running, that's for sure," says former associate Bill Delp. "He wasn't a month out of prison and he had his whole plan mapped out." That plan included setting up a storefront in a Pompano Beach strip mall, where Wainwright oversaw the assembly of his new apheresis machines and coordinated the leasing and sale of units to clinics worldwide. More important, he and Claybrook Lewis set about recruiting investors for the venture, which was detailed in slick promotional literature.

Delp, an electrical engineer specializing in health technology, met Wainwright through an investor and was quickly enlisted as an unpaid technician. Three weeks after meeting Wainwright, Delp traveled to Nassau to install apheresis machines at a Bahamian holistic health-care center. Over the next six months he would return to Nassau seven times and travel with Wainwright to Nevada to set up machines there. As in his former days as a self-proclaimed automotive guru, Wainwright apparently used the cash drawn from investors to fuel a lavish, jet-setting lifestyle. "We always went first class," Delp says.

Though Delp personally oversaw only a few installations, he says Wainwright claimed to have sent his machinery to more than a dozen clinics around the world, including San Francisco, Toronto, and Juarez, Mexico.

Wainwright himself refuses to speak with New Times "until the paper is prepared to tell the truth," as one PAI official phrased it. Lewis declined comment for the same reason. But his wife Mary, PAI's secretary and treasurer, insists that both her husband and Wainwright "are guilty of nothing," and affirms that PAI is involved in the Cebu clinic. "Some pretty good things are happening," Mary Lewis notes, "according to the press we get from over there."

Delp says he agreed to help Wainwright because he was compelled by the possibility that ozone could cure AIDS. "That was before I saw the lab results on Basil's patients." By October, data from the blood tests commissioned by Wainwright had made Delp leery. "I started to press Basil for more patent information, more technical, medical, and financial data," Delp says. "I started getting calls from investors who wanted to know if this guy was for real. Basil's response was always, 'We've got to fast-track this thing. I've no time for these questions!'"

Most unsettling of all was the inventor's religious manipulation of his minions. "Basil was constantly playing this whole martyr role," Delp recalls. "Clay Lewis and the others worshipped the guy. It reminded me of this cult stuff out in Waco. It was always, 'Basil's doing God's work.' The investors were like churchgoers as well. The 'God Squad,' I called them. And Basil knew his part by heart. I actually saw him make two investors feel guilty for taking time from his mission of saving lives to ask for something as mundane as financial information."

In December Delp began urging investors to ask for their money back. Wainwright countered by accusing his technician of trying to steal his technology. "He claimed I was a murderer, that I was running a clinic myself. He even threatened my girlfriend," Delp says.

At least one investor did lose faith in Wainwright. Susan Hilton, a senior citizen from Delray Beach, remembers being given a grand tour of PAI's tiny headquarters last November. The way Lewis and Wainwright told it, her $100,000 investment would return a healthy profit and earn her a place in Heaven. "I thought of the machines being sent to Africa," Hilton says. "After I wrote the check, I felt I'd done this wonderful thing. Basil said, 'God bless you, you've just helped humanity so much.' I must have had a big sign on my forehead that read SUCKER."

Hilton says she was told her money had purchased stock worth four percent of PAI. But over the next two months, PAI officials ignored her demands for more detailed financial statements. In February, at Delp's urging, she went to state authorities. On Friday, March 12, police arrested Wainwright and Lewis on four counts apiece, including grand theft and fraudulent sale of unregistered securities. Though still awaiting his fraud trial in federal court, Wainwright posted bail in state court and again went free. Lewis also posted bail and is currently residing at his home in Plantation.

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