Ozone's Second Fiddler
Martin Van Wyngen had his doubts about Lucas Boeve from the start. A mild-mannered translator from Ottawa, Van Wyngen was lured down to Boeve's Hollywood clinic in late 1990 with promises that intravenous injections of ozone would cure the HIV virus he contracted five years ago.
Boeve requested $2000 in advance for the first week of treatment and instructed Van Wyngen to be at the clinic the next day. Boeve's clinic, he noted, was actually a flat in the Sea 'N Sky apartments. Van Wyngen was told he should breeze past the concierge, as if he lived there. The apprehension grew more pronounced after the fifth day of treatment, when Van Wyngen found he had trouble controlling his movements.
The capper came on day six. Though Boeve coldly assured him that a lower ozone dosage would eliminate the motor-control problems, seconds after the injection, Van Wyngen found himself unable to move at all. Rather than transfer his patient to a hospital, Boeve insisted the paralysis would pass, plunked Van Wyngen into a wheelchair, and had him whisked back to his hotel room. Van Wyngen remained frozen in the same position through the night, unable even to reach out from his bed and dial 911 on the phone sitting a few feet away. "I felt like a mannequin," the 47-year-old Canadian recalls. Except that mannequins, of course, don't crap in their pants. When a maid found Van Wyngen the next morning, he was immediately transported to North Beach Hospital, where doctors treated him for pneumonia and oxygen depletion.
Not surprisingly, while Boeve was busy separating Van Wyngen from his money (Van Wyngen claims Boeve, or one of his assistants, filched $1300 from his briefcase while he was hospitalized), Fort Lauderdale fraud detective Joe Roubicek was trying to track down and arrest the ozone vendor for practicing medicine without a license. But by the time Van Wyngen returned to Canada and consulted a lawyer about suing, Boeve had fled the country.
Like Basil Wainwright, 52-year-old Lucas Boeve (pronounced bo-vay) built a loyal clientele in South Florida by selling ozone as a cure-all. "I call them the two ozone kingpins," Roubicek says. "At the same time Basil was working up north, Boeve worked down in Dade and south Broward. They were sort of rivals. During my investigation, each guy's supporters used to call to tell me the other one was a phony. I guess they didn't like sharing the same market."
But the two men didn't share much more than an oft-proclaimed - and profitable - devotion to aiding the sick. Unlike Wainwright, a chubby charmer who trumpeted his good works from the rooftops, Boeve avoided publicity. Tall and tight-lipped, the ex-Green Beret claimed to be a scientist who had secured approval from government officials to administer ozone intravenously, on a donation-only basis. And while Wainwright pocketed a few thousand dollars at a time selling ozone generators, Roubicek says Boeve was amassing a lump-sum investment of more than $1.5 million, intended to fund an overseas clinic.
The plan went awry in December of 1990, just weeks before Martin Van Wyngen's ill-fated journey to South Florida, after police received a call from one of Boeve's neighbors. The man said his driveway was often blocked by a fleet of ambulances and out-of-state cars spilling over from next door. When Roubicek arrived at the Fort Lauderdale home, he saw Boeve hustling people into the back yard. Inside the house, the scent of ozone was redolent. Eight people were gathered sheepishly in the living room. All denied receiving ozone treatments. They were simply having a social meeting.
Out back near the swimming pool, Roubicek interviewed an old man in a long black coat. He could not speak English, but his daughter identified him as an orthodox rabbi who had come down from Brooklyn to see if Boeve could cure his lymph cancer. Roubicek also spotted medical equipment stashed in a back room, used syringes in a garbage can, and what he at first mistook to be a woman in an iron lung. The woman identified the contraption as an "Excalibur Enhancer," used to rid the body of toxins with an ozonated shower. Police later found Boeve's unlicensed nurse, a Colombian named Sabina Paz, hiding in a closet.
Roubicek called the Broward State Attorney's Office directly and received an arrest warrant in early January 1991. He was optimistic the suspect would surrender. "Boeve gave me his word that he would stay in the area," Roubicek says, "that he wanted to work with the authorities." Then he dropped out of sight. But not, as Van Wyngen learned, out of business.
Over the next year, Roubicek received dozens of calls from former Boeve associates who supplied bizarre accounts of his whereabouts. He was running a clinic on a boat off the Gold Coast. Or hopping from one Central American hotel to the next. Late last year sources came to a consensus: Boeve had established a health spa in the Dominican Republic, near the resort town of Sosua on the island's northern coast.
"I was impressed with the setup," says Kelly Burke, a filmmaker from Washington, D.C., who shot footage of Boeve at his Dominican facility. "It wasn't a back-room operation by any means. He's gathered a lot of holistic people around him, but there's no oversight by medical personnel." Burke adds that Boeve behaved like anything but a fugitive during his visit this past February: "Every day at sunset he'd get on a horse and ride down into town for a beer. Everyone seemed to know him. He had patients coming down from the States and Canada, and was working on getting funds from investors, mostly in South Florida." He even offered to treat Burke's teen-age daughter, though she wasn't sick.
More recent reports indicate Boeve's situation has changed. "In the last month I've gotten twenty calls from ex-employees who claim he has been ripping people off down there and trying to intimidate his enemies. He rides around with an armed guard," Detective Roubicek says. "Supposedly he was arrested two weeks ago, but then released."
Seeking extradition for Boeve has been difficult, according to Roubicek, perhaps because two of his clients purportedly include the provincal governor and the sheriff of Sosua. But mounting objections to his presence suggest he may yet be turned over to U.S. authorities. Martin Van Wyngen will be waiting as well.