A man-and-wife team that carried out unlicensed liposuction operations in the basement of a friend’s Massachusetts home may be prosecuted for manslaughter after one of their patients, a woman, died. Another patient had to be hospitalized. Luiz and Ana Maria Ribeiro, both Brazilian citizens, are already in custody and facing charges for practising medicine without a licence. Their patient, Fabiola De Paula, 24, fell unconscious and died in hospital. The results of the autopsy may decide whether the couple face more serious charges.

Framingham, Massacuchetts, has a community of about 14,000 Brazilians. According to prosecutors, most of the Brazilians in the area knew about the liposuctions the Ribeiros used to carry out. District Attorney Martha Coakley said it is most likely several in that community sought treatment as the word got around.

The Ribeiros would commute between Massachusetts and Brazil regularly. They would enter the USA on 30-day work visas. Patients would pay from $1,000 to $3,000 for procedures such as stomach liposuctions, plumping lips and nose jobs. Prosecutors say an enormous amount of blood protein was found on the floor of where they worked, as well as surgical tools in a room used for depositing rubbish. The operations were performed on a massage table covered with sheets.

According to Luiz Ribeiro, he is a licensed doctor in his own country. Authorities in Brazil say there is a doctor registered there with the same name and date of birth – however, their records show he is not specialised. He is not registered to perform plastic surgery in Brazil. Having a Brazilian license does not entitle one to practise in the USA. Ironically, Mr. Ribeiro had appeared only a few weeks ago on a cable TV program in the USA where he warned people of the dangers of using unlicensed medical practitioners.

Ex-patients who had had treatment with The Ribeiros are starting to come forward, reporting cases of malpractice and complications after their operations. One woman said her lips went black after being treated by Mr. Ribeiro and had to go to hospital for treatment.

The owner of the basement where the operations took place, Ana Celia Pena Sielemenn, was arrested yesterday as she was preparing to leave the country. She was charged with distributing illegal narcotics to plastic surgery patients. Sielemenn has pleaded not guilty. While searching her house police found two bundles of $1,000 in cash in her shoes.

Sielemenn says she only rented the basement out and knows nothing of any cosmetic surgery. However, several locals have come forward saying she would actively go door-to-door asking people whether they wanted plastic surgery – some said she had been doing this for several years.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today