Chiropractor charged for allegedly bilking Utah elderly
As soon as Betty Burgener learned it would cost $6,000 for chiropractor Brandon Babcock to "reverse" her type II diabetes, she said no.
But she alleges she was "tricked" into signing up for a credit card she thought she was filling out a new patient form and "about had a heart attack" when she received a $6,000 bill from a credit card company in the mail.
The 80-year-old is one of Babcock's 11 alleged victims. The 37-year-old West Jordan chiropractor was charged Monday with 10 counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one count of communications fraud, all felonies.
Burgener, who claims her health was damaged during the two weeks she followed Babcock's program, said she is frustrated that Babcock remains allowed to practice. The allegations of elderly abuse started in 2010; she met with him two months ago.
"I just want him to take care of my credit card and I want him off the streets so he doesn't do this to someone else," she said Tuesday. "He's taking advantage of older people that have diabetes."
Babcock was booked Monday into the Salt Lake County Jail and posted $200,000 bail on Tuesday. He did not return a phone call to his office for comment.
He retains his chiropractor's license, and the Department of Professional and Occupational Licensing (DOPL) has not placed restrictions on his practice. As late as 11 a.m., his office was scheduling potential patients for a free lunch and "diabetes breakthrough" seminar at a Marie Callendar's restaurant in Salt Lake City.
Loranna Kartchner went to the restaurant Tuesday, not knowing of Babcock's arrest or that he had just canceled the lunch. The 75-year-old had seen his advertisement Tuesday and got a reservation that morning.
Diabetic for six years, she wanted to believe he could reverse the disease. "I really would like to be nondiabetic," she said. "It would be wonderful."
She said she fears she may have become another alleged victim had the lunch not been canceled.
The lunches were advertised in The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News. Brent Low, president and CEO of MediaOne of Utah, which oversees advertising for both newspapers, said the company has suspended Babcock's advertisements until the criminal case is resolved.
DOPL first received complaints about Babcock's financial dealings in 2010. A spokeswoman said the agency is still working with prosecutors to determine whether there are "any appropriate licensing actions."
The office's "top priority was to stop the harm to consumers and prepare the case for prosecutors," she said.
Babcock's license entry on DOPL's website does not mention the arrest.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Babcock allegedly preys on the health fears of the elderly.
"They see the financial strains of medications and their medical reality and they're looking to make ends meet. Someone says, 'I'm going to cure you of xyz' ...then they get duped in these financial schemes."
The charges note that Babcock advertises he is from the "Functional Endocrinology Institute of Utah," claiming to be able to reverse diabetes. He offers "free consultations" and promises that clients can "opt out" of his program within 30 days.
Instead, Babcock allegedly applied for credit in the victims' names through JPMorgan Chase Health Advance, billed as an alternative to medical loans. Burgener said she was signed up for a CareCredit card through GE Capital Retail Bank.
Some victims said they didn't know they were signing up for the accounts. One victim, who received a bill for $10,384, said he had never been to the chiropractor's office, according to the charging documents.
Others said they tried to get out of the program within 30 days but Babcock refused and required they pay him. The victims later received more bills from Chase. Interest rates were as high as 30 percent.
Chase Card refused to comment.
The crimes are considered elder abuse because adults ages 65 and older are considered "vulnerable" by the law. The 11 victims range in age from 73 to 83.
In an earlier interview with the Tribune, Babcock said he targeted adults ages 50 and above, claiming they had more time to put into their health.
Some clients knew what they were signing.
"[Babcock] disclosed up front that was how much it would cost, and said, 'We can get you set up with financing.' I went along with it willingly," said 81-year-old Jack Christensen, one of the alleged victims in the charges.
"Anytime you're told by a doctor that he can totally cure your diabetes, you're pretty excited, right?"
Christensen heard about Babcock through an acquaintance who claimed the doctor had cured his diabetes. He made an appointment last February and signed up on the spot, applying for about $6,000 in financing.
Christensen was diagnosed with Type II diabetes about a decade ago. He is active and says he manages the disease "fairly well" through diet.
"My friends marvel at what I'm able to do at my age. I'm very health conscious and take supplements every day. My wife is always giving me hell because she thinks I'm wasting my money," said the retired salesman. "But she's on handful of prescriptions and I don't see any of them doing any good."
Christensen liked Babcock's enthusiasm. "He had a nice office and secretary. He seemed legitimate with patients coming and going," he said.
But when Christensen brought the information home, he says, "My wife [Bonnie] blew her stack....She figured we just couldn't afford it."
The South Salt Lake couple made a second appointment with Babcock demanding to cancel their participation. "He told her, 'Your husband's health isn't important to you,'" recalls Christensen, who agreed to pay $800 to cover Babcock's expenses.
"I paid him off and haven't heard anything more from him," said Christensen. "I'm not angry with Babcock anymore," he added. "I try to stay positive and try not to make the same mistake more than once."
Babcock's program of diet and supplements is based on a model developed by Brandon Credeur, a former classmate of Babcock's at Parker College of Chiropractic in Dallas. Credeur is charged by the Colorado Board of Chiropractic Examiners with 25 counts of violating various rules and laws, including unethical advertising, substandard care and practicing medicine for which he is not licensed.
In 2008, DOPL ordered Babcock to stop claiming he could treat depression and emotional problems as well as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.
West Jordan City had issues with Babcock as well. The city confirmed it issued him a "cease and desist order" for operating without a license last year and threatened him with misdemeanor criminal prosecution. A police report also notes that Babcock had been selling supplements and other nutritional products without collecting sales tax.
West Jordan was involved in the investigation that led to the elderly abuse charges.
In a March Tribune story detailing Babcock's medical claims, the Utah Medical Association questioned his earlier ads which violated the law because they didn't identify him as a chiropractor and his tactics, saying that chiropractors can't treat medical conditions. And an endocrinologist said Babcock's "treatment" was based on pseudoscience.
Monday's charges don't address those issues, which are regulated by DOPL.
However, one 71-year-old victim said she didn't know Babcock was a chiropractor and thought he was a medical doctor, according to court documents.
Gill said his office will continue to investigate Babcock.
Burgener said Babcock told her to reduce her insulin, and she said her legs started to swell after taking his supplements. Her two medical doctors advised her to report him to authorities.
Babcock previously told the Tribune that he does not tell patients how to handle their medications because he is not licensed to do so.
Burgener plans to sue Babcock to cover the outstanding $1,700 bill.
"It's scary when you're this age and you get a hold of something like that the doctor that claims to be able to help you hurts you."
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill believes there may be other alleged victims of chiropractor Brandon Babcock and is urging them to call state licensing officials at (801) 530-6630.
P Brandon Babcock's initial court appearance is scheduled for April 30.
The Division of Professional Licensing, which regulates the practice of medicine, will investigate whether to take action on his license as a chiropractic physician.
To read a March profile of Utah chiropractor Brandon Babcock and his program, visit http://bit.ly/IvAXuv.