MCALLEN, Texas (Reuters) - An unlicensed plastic surgeon working along the U.S.-Mexico border allegedly injected her victims with silicone instead of the typical Botox or saline treatments, and may have caused one client to nearly lose her leg, a Texas sheriff said Thursday.
Nohemi Gabriela Gonzalez, 45, was charged Thursday with practicing medicine without a license, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
She could also face charges of manslaughter or murder if investigators confirm that a second woman’s death was related to treatments she provided, officials said.
Authorities in Hidalgo County, on the Texas-Mexico border about 60 miles west of the Gulf of Mexico, said Gonzalez solicited as many as 30 men and women seeking Botox injections and other treatments for their buttocks, legs and faces.
Many of the victims were immigrants in the country illegally, including exotic dancers who have eluded investigators, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said.
Authorities are still investigating whether one of her clients died as a result of the treatments.
Investigators learned of the underground practice when a victim traveled to Mexico to see a doctor after she had trouble breathing and complained of burning sensations in her ankles, according to a criminal complaint.
According to the complaint, the doctor told the woman, who was not identified, that she had been injected with silicone and there was nothing he could do.
The victim had the silicone removed from her legs at a South Texas hospital, where she remains a patient, Trevino said.
The woman told investigators she received what she had been told were Botox treatments at Gonzalez’s house in Edinburg, Texas, and paid $120 — a discounted rate, the complaint says.
A flyer in Spanish recovered by investigators when they arrested Gonzalez on Wednesday claimed that her treatments could help patients reduce wrinkles and add volume to their hips, buttocks, legs and nose. Treatments started at $250, it said.
Editing by Karen Brooks and Gunna Dickson