By Trevor Bach
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In the current climate of mounting rancor about the cost of health care, radio-show host Bill Faloon broadcasts a tempting message. "Ladies and gentlemen, I contend that the Food and Drug Administration, along with the pharmaceutical drug cartels they support, are engaged in a conspiracy to commit genocide against the American people," Faloon tells listeners. "We estimate that the FDA, by denying the public access to life-saving drugs, is responsible for the murder of millions of people, and we do intend to bring them up on war-criminal charges."
As host of Life Extension Breakthroughs, a call-in show that aired until recently on Saturdays from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. on WINZ-AM (940), Faloon urged his audience to avoid the FDA's draconian regulations by seeking alternative drugs and therapies via his nonprofit company, the Fort Lauderdale-based Life Extension Foundation.
Most callers were smitten.
"I'd love to join your group!" enthused Iris from Miami during one broadcast.
"I totally agree with everything you're saying!" seconded Marcia from North Miami.
"A fascinating program!" observed Bob, another Miamian. "Absolutely fascinating!"
What Iris and Marcia and Bob probably didn't know is that Faloon's show is an infomercial, that the foundation paid more than $2000 for each hourlong slot on WINZ. The new fans also probably had no idea that Faloon, 39, and his partner Saul Kent, 55, are under federal criminal indictment for allegedly importing unapproved drugs into the U.S. through phony foreign companies. Though these firms advertised their products as effective in battling everything from the common cold to cancer and AIDS, FDA officials claim some of these remedies are lethal if not administered with medical supervision. Others, according to the agency, simply do not work.
Faloon, nonetheless, is still publicly recommending the use of many of these cures, and his Foundation is referring its members to purveyors who distribute them. In fact, Faloon says, government persecution has been a boon to his mission, and that membership in the foundation has more than tripled to 15,000 since the FDA raided Life Extension's warehouse in 1987. The November 1991 unsealing of a 27-count criminal indictment did little to deter Faloon and Kent from their foundation-related work, particularly as it relates to the distribution of unapproved drugs. The pair, each of whom remains free on $825,000 bond, cast themselves as fearless crusaders who are paying the price for standing up to the FDA. Just a few months ago they opened the FDA Holocaust Museum, a one-room storefront in Fort Lauderdale plastered with propaganda decrying the evils of the regulatory agency.
"We're not afraid of the government," Faloon insists.
And he has good reason not to be. The government, after all, has shown little ability or inclination to actually bring Faloon and Kent to trial. While the defendants have hired a trio of defense lawyers, the U.S. Attorney's Office has bounced the case like a Ping-Pong ball between federal prosecutors. The trial date has been delayed a half-dozen times; nearly three years after the indictment, no date is currently set. Last month, in fact, the entire case file A all nine volumes A was transferred from federal Judge Jose Gonzalez to a new judge, Daniel Hurley.
The cat-and-mouse proceedings began more than ten years ago, when Stephen Ruddel, an eccentric real estate mogul, put up $100,000 seed money for Faloon and Kent to launch the Life Extension Foundation. The partners were prominent members of a movement devoted to attaining immortality through technology and experimental drugs A or "nutritional supplements," as Faloon calls them. Besides providing information about alternative health research, the foundation made no secret of its efforts to sell these drugs, which weren't approved by the FDA for use in this country, through a booming mail-order business.
In 1986 a Hollywood Police SWAT team raided Ruddel's office and discovered what they characterized as a cocaine lab. Ruddel was arrested on drug-trafficking charges; he later entered into a plea agreement on drug-possession charges. Eight months later FDA agents raided the Life Extension Foundation warehouse, located in the same building as Ruddel's office, and seized hundreds of products and documents.
Undaunted, Faloon moved the foundation's headquarters to Davie. Saul Kent relocated to Riverside, California (where he still lives) to tend to his ailing mother.
"Tend" doesn't really do justice to what happened next, however.
Faloon and Kent are both disciples of cryonics, a process grounded in the theory that doctors will eventually develop the technology to bring the dead back to life -- if they have been properly frozen.
In December 1987 Kent checked his dying mother out of her nursing home and transported her to Alcor, a cryonics laboratory in Riverside. Within hours Dora Kent was dead, and a team of lab technicians A none of them actual doctors A had cut off her head. The Riverside coroner eventually ruled Dora Kent's death a homicide; police raided Alcor, but no charges were pressed. The location of Dora Kent's head remains a mystery.
In Florida, meanwhile, two grand juries were poring over evidence of the Life Extension Foundation's shady dealings. According to the indictment handed down in 1991 Faloon and Kent shipped unapproved drugs into the U.S. and sold them to foundation members through two overseas companies -- the Longevity Institute and the Hauptmann Institute -- that amounted to little more than mail drops. Prosecutors contend that the defendants went so far as to create fraudulent promotional material for these outfits, and they intend to prove that Dr. Karl-Gustav Hauptmann, director of the Hauptmann Institute, is nothing more than a model in a lab coat.