The Hialeah cosmetic surgery clinic where a 29-year-old woman from West Virginia suffered fatal complications on Thursday uses physicians who have maimed patients repeatedly and then discharged them to recover in hotels and even horse stables with no medical attention, according to state records.
Doctors affiliated with the clinic lure out-of-town patients, mostly women, with the promise of cheap plastic surgery. But the results have been gruesome, with at least two deaths and numerous patients rushed to local hospitals with debilitating injuries and infections.
“I’m permanently disabled,” said Nyosha Fowler, who spent 28 days in a coma at Baptist Hospital of Miami after undergoing a so-called Brazilian butt lift surgery from one of the physicians who had worked at the clinic in May 2015.
The Florida Department of Health has charged physicians who work at Encore Plastic Surgery in Hialeah and at two other clinics, Vanity Cosmetic Surgery and Spectrum Aesthetics in Miami, with medical malpractice and employing unlicensed professionals.
Police and federal authorities have charged other doctors affiliated with the clinics with attempted murder, kidnapping and prescription drug fraud.
Yet, the clinics’ doors remain open. And the patients, many wooed by online testimonials and sales pitches, keep coming from all over the United States.
I’m permanently disabled.
Nyosha Fowler, who spent 28 days in a coma at Baptist Hospital after undergoing Brazilian butt lift surgery from a physician who had worked at the clinic.
The doctors involved include:
▪ Ismael Labrador, owner of Vanity Cosmetic Surgery and president of Encore Plastic Surgery, who was arrested and charged by Miami-Dade police in 2007 after a months-long undercover investigation discovered he was employing unlicensed doctors and allowing them to perform procedures, including vaginal reconstruction, on patients. Labrador later settled the charges, paying a $30,000 fine, performing community service and accepting a reprimand. He did not return a call Friday left with the answering service at his clinic.
▪ Osakatukei “Osak” Omulepu, who is currently fighting the state health department’s efforts to revoke his license for medical malpractice after the doctor seriously injured four patients in three days in May 2015, including Fowler, at Spectrum Aesthetics and Vanity.
▪ Anthony Hasan, who pleaded guilty to federal charges of prescription drug fraud in December 2010, and whose patient, a 51-year-old woman, died in 2013 after he performed a butt lift on her at Vanity.
▪ Orlando Llorente, who was arrested by Miami police in May 2013 and charged with attempted murder and kidnapping after he held his ex-girlfriend captive and waterboarded her for several hours over a Facebook message, according to the police report. The charges were later dropped but Llorente was hit with a domestic violence restraining order. Llorente works at all three clinics: Encore, Vanity and Spectrum.
No one was answering the phone at Encore Plastic Surgery on Friday — the clinic where the woman from West Virginia died on Thursday. Callers only got a busy signal.
At Vanity Cosmetic Surgery, call center manager Magaly Gaban said the facility has no connection to the death of Heather Meadows, the woman from West Virgina who died Thursday from complications of a cosmetic procedure performed at Encore, police said.
“We really don’t have anything to do with Encore Plastic Surgery, so we don’t want to make a comment,” she said. Receipts provided to customers, however, identify both facilities as operating together.
Fowler, a former patient at the third clinic, Spectrum Aesthetics, lives in Birmingham, Alabama. A mother of two who used to drive a truck for a living, Fowler told the Herald she now has to use leg braces to walk after Omulepu punctured her small intestine during liposuction and then injected the contaminated fat into her sciatic nerve, rendering her right foot lame.
“I don’t know why this man is taken lightly by the state of Florida,” Fowler said of Omulepu, “and they’re still allowing him to be a doctor.”
On Friday, the Miami-Dade medical examiner performed an autopsy of Meadows, who was rushed to the emergency room at Larkin Community Hospital’s Palm Springs Campus after medical complications from a cosmetic procedure at Encore, 1738 West 49th St. in Hialeah.
“Findings point toward an accidental death during a medical procedure,” said Carl Zogby, a Hialeah police spokesman, on Friday afternoon.
Zogby said the case remains open until a full autopsy report is released at a later date, and that state health officials are continuing their investigation. The medical professional who performed the surgery on Meadows at Encore and the nature of the procedure have not been identified.
The health department is investigating the death because it involves a medical facility.
The state health department has disciplined Labrador and Hasan in the past, and the agency is currently trying to revoke Omulepu’s license.
Mara Gambineri, a department spokeswoman, said in a written statement that the agency is trying to protect the public while also following due process for physicians.
“We can assure the public that we will be diligent and thorough in protecting them from unsafe or unscrupulous healthcare practice,” Gambineri said. “Although by law we cannot disclose the existence of a complaint against any licensee until 10 days after a finding of probable cause, we are committed to conducting a thorough and object investigation into any complaint we receive.”
State health officials issued an emergency order in February restricting Omulepu from performing liposuction and fat transfers to the buttocks, stating the doctor presents an “immediate serious danger” to the public health.
His attorney told the Herald last month that Omulepu will contest most of the charges. Omulepu is no longer listed on the websites of either Encore or Vanity, on 8506 SW Eighth St. in Miami.
According to health department records, women have been hospitalized with serious infections and injuries, including perforated intestines and livers, and left with debilitating injuries and hospital bills they cannot afford.
Omulepu, who worked at Vanity and Spectrum, discharged patients to recover at hotels and other facilities ill-equipped to care for them, according to state records. Fowler said she was forced to sleep on a floor of a private home after her surgery. She went to to the emergency room the following day.
The mother of another patient who underwent a Brazilian butt lift at Vanity by Omulepu in May 2015 said the doctor discharged patients to a horse ranch in Southwest Miami-Dade with no phones and no nurses, and surrounded by high walls and fences.
“I was so scared,” said the woman, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and asked that the Herald not divulge her name. She said her daughter, a diabetic, was nearly unconscious from severe blood loss, and that two other patients — one woman from New York and another from Los Angeles — also were taken to the horse ranch to recover.
“It was in the middle of a horse stable,” she said. “There were rooms, and the beds were not even a foot off the floor. It stunk, and there were flies.”
The woman said she took pictures — “I was afraid we wouldn’t make it back home,” she said — and threatened Omulepu via text message to his cell phone that she would call the police and report the women had been kidnapped if the clinic did not move them to another location.
One of the photos she took shows a sign for Star Stables, a horse training facility. The address on the sign is 11970 SW 64th St. — identical to the address for a Florida corporation registered as The Ranch at Horse Country.
The registered agent and president of that corporation: Ismael Labrador, owner of Vanity Cosmetic Surgery and president of Encore Plastic Surgery. According to Miami-Dade property records, the ranch is owned by Eloina Investment Group, another Labrador company.
The woman said someone came to pick them up from the horse ranch and took them to an Extended Stay America hotel, where she struggled to nurse her daughter to health. The woman said her daughter has been to Duke Raleigh Hospital repeatedly for wound treatments, and that one year after the surgery she still feels pain and numbness in her legs.
“We thought it was going to be a simple procedure,” she said.
The woman said she and her daughter found Vanity after researching cosmetic surgeries online and hearing from a past patient. She said they also were lured by the competitive price, but that she struggled to get a partial refund for the $12,000 that Vanity charged on her American Express card.
The receipt, she said, listed both Vanity and Encore as receiving payment.
Corporate records show that Vanity and Encore are linked through a common mailing address, 13985 SW 20th St., Miami. The registered agent for Encore is Estrella Roja; the registered agent for Vanity is Labrador, the physician, whose name appears as president in Encore’s corporate filing.
The clinics have made headlines before. In July 2013, a 51-year-old woman died shortly after butt lift surgery at Vanity. The autopsy revealed she died of a lung embolism shortly after surgery performed by Hasan, one of the doctors listed on Vanity’s website.
Omulepu, Llorente, Hasan and Labrador do not carry medical malpractice insurance, leaving many of their injured victims with little recourse for recouping their financial losses and debilitating injuries.
Fowler, the patient who says she was injured by Omulepu in 2015, said her medical bills over the past year, which included a $20,000 air ambulance from Miami to a Michigan hospital, have amounted to more than she can ever pay.
“My medical bills have come to almost $2 million alone,” she said.
But, she added, “My only thing is not the finances. ... I’m tired of seeing him [Omulepu] be able to butcher other people I want him to lose his license. I want to see something change in Miami.”
This updated version clarifies a sentence on charges by the Florida Department of Health.