A Miami spa owner was sentenced to six years in federal prison Wednesday for using liquid silicone smuggled from Colombia for injections that enlarged the buttocks of hundreds of customers at her now-defunct West Flagler Street clinic.
Maribel Jimenez, 49, pleaded guilty in June to receiving dozens of shipments of illicit and misbranded silicone via DHL courier service and then injecting the substance into hundreds of clients seeking butt enhancements at Bella Beauty Spa, which closed in 2015.
According to federal prosecutors, Jimenez “repeatedly and consistently” told clients that they would be injected with a substance that was safe and capable of being absorbed by the body over time, which she knew was not true.
Jimenez and a former assistant told clients that the substance was an FDA-approved dermal filler, such as Juvederm or Restylane, federal prosecutors said. Unlike FDA-approved dermal fillers, silicone injections in the buttocks are illegal in the United States.
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The substance can cause potentially fatal blood clots, and it can harden, causing chronic inflammation and infections. Silicone can even ooze through the skin as the substance mixes with body tissue.
The dangers of silicone injections gained national attention in 2013 when a popular Miami Spanish-language radio personality, Betty Pino, died of complications from a procedure to remove the substance from her buttocks. It is not known where Pino received the silicone injections.
In April, a Miami-Dade judge in a separate civil suit ordered Jimenez and an unlicensed doctor named Mark David Schreiber to pay $818,000 in damages to a former patient of Bella Beauty who suffered permanent injuries as a result of a botched Brazilian butt lift surgery.
Jimenez’s assistant, Magaly del Rosario, 47, also pleaded guilty to federal charges of using adulterated silicone. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 19.
In the criminal complaint against Jimenez and del Rosario, federal prosecutors said the illicit silicone was smuggled from Colombia in 170 separate shipments from 2008 to August 2015 in bottles falsely labeled in Spanish as containing “depilatory wax” for removing hair.
Jimenez and del Rosario also were charged with using altered prescription drugs, including Lidocaine and Botox.
In addition to imposing a six-year prison sentence on Jimenez, U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams ordered her to forfeit $1.1 million. Additional restitution may be ordered following a hearing scheduled for Dec. 1 in Miami federal court.