Federal prosecutors have arrested a homeopathy practitioner for an alleged scheme involving sham COVID-19 immunization pellets and falsified COVID-19 vaccination record cards, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Juli Mazi, 41, of Napa, California, allegedly sold unproven and potentially dangerous vials of pellets for $243 in some cases that she fraudulently claimed could provide “lifelong immunity” to COVID-19. What the pellets actually are or contain is unclear. One person who spoke with federal investigators said they became ill after taking the pellets. In Mazi’s sales pitches, she said that the pellets contain a “very minute amount of this [COVID-19] disease,” while fraudulently claiming that FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines contain “toxic ingredients.”
Along with the mystery pellets, Mazi allegedly provided customers with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards, which she either partly filled out or left blank. She instructed customers to write on the card that they had received a Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and then date the immunization as the time they took their pellets—or a date that would otherwise not raise suspicion. Mazi even provided customers with Moderna vaccine lot numbers, which the CDC confirmed were real lot numbers for Moderna vaccines. The lot numbers corresponded to vaccine supplies distributed in the Napa area, of which none were allocated to Mazi, who is not federally authorized to receive or administer COVID-19 vaccines.
“This defendant allegedly defrauded and endangered the public by preying on fears and spreading misinformation about FDA-authorized vaccinations, while also peddling fake treatments that put people’s lives at risk,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement. “Even worse, the defendant allegedly created counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards and instructed her customers to falsely mark that they had received a vaccine, allowing them to circumvent efforts to contain the spread of the disease.”
Federal authorities first learned of Mazi’s alleged scheme after taking a call from a tipster in April of this year. The tipster said that their family had bought the pellets and received falsified CDC vaccination cards. The tipster went ahead and purchased their own batch of pellets and had a phone-based appointment with Mazi in June, which the tipster recorded with Mazi’s consent. During the call, Mazi provided instructions for taking the pellets and fraudulently filling out the CDC vaccination card.
According to a transcript of the call, which was included in a federal affidavit, Mazi instructed the tipster to:
pour roughly two to four pellets from the [vial’s] cap, and dump that under your tongue. You do not have to drive yourself insane trying to pour exactly the four pellets. The exact number of pellets, it does not matter. I mean it is like an energy medicine, so more pellets do not mean stronger necessary[sic].
When the tipster asked what was in the pellets, Mazi replied:
[t]his is from the COVID-19… It is made from the disease particles themselves. I do not know the exact process for that… As long as they can extract germs of the virus, they can make the remedy. With this method, we are tapping into what is known as the innate-immune system. That is like our higher intelligence part of the immune system.
Mazi’s responses are incoherent and concerning. For one thing, real vaccines are intended to induce long-term adaptive immune responses, such as antibody production, which are distinct from the innate immune system.
A federal investigator on the case spoke with a medical expert at the National Institutes of Health to review some of Mazi’s statements. In regard to her claim that her pellets provided “lifelong immunity” to COVID-19, the expert said it is “absolutely a false statement.” The expert also dismissed Mazi’s claim that FDA-authorized vaccines contain toxic ingredients. On the other hand, the expert noted that having people swallow pellets potentially containing SARS-CoV-2 virus particles—if that’s what they actually contain—is very dangerous. While Mazi’s claims are troubling, they are in line with the types of claims made by other homeopaths.
Fraud and profits
Homeopathy is a debunked pseudoscience that claims highly diluted toxic substances can cure diseases and that the dilution increases their disease-curing powers (aka, “like cures like” and the “law of infinitesimals”). Most of the “treatments” are so diluted they contain only water. As such, some homeopaths claim that water molecules can somehow remember other molecules they’ve encountered and act accordingly.
Though homeopaths’ watery treatments are typically harmless, they can become quite dangerous if they are improperly diluted. That was the case for homeopathic teething products found to contain unsafe levels of a plant-derived poison called belladonna, aka, deadly nightshade. The teething products were linked in 2016 to 10 deaths and more than 400 illnesses in babies and infants.
According to federal investigators, Mazi told her customers that her COVID-19 pellets were also safe for babies. Investigating her practice further, they found she had provided other kinds of homeopathic “immunizations” to children, which she falsely claimed would satisfy the immunization requirements for California schools.
According to financial records federal investigators obtained from Square—a digital payment company that processed credit card payments—Mazi received approximately $221,817 from 1,242 transactions between January 2020 to May 21, 2021. Though the vast majority of the transaction records did not note what the payments were for, 25 transactions amounting to $7,653 were indicated as being for COVID treatments, and approximately 34 other transactions were noted as being for homeoprophylaxis treatment.
For her COVID-related business, Mazi has been charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters.