Carlos Guzmangarza was either a man posing as a plastic surgeon who used his position to take advantage of women — allegedly raping one patient and leaving a 4-inch needle in another client’s buttocks — or he was a man who provided cut-rate but reliable plastic surgery to mostly Latina woman in the Mission, who sought him out despite having no license and never having attended medical school.
Such were the two very different versions of events presented this week in the opening statements by attorneys in the 54-count criminal trial against Guzmangarza, 53, before Judge Michael Begert in San Francisco Superior Court.
In the first narrative painted by the prosecution, eight woman accused Guzmangarza of everything from harming them in procedures-gone-wrong to sexually assaulting two women and raping a third.
One story of his practices tells of his performing liposuction as he smoked a cigar.
“[Guzmangarza] took advantage [of] and abused women in just about every way,” prosecutor Evan Akiron said. “He raped one of them during a medical procedure.”
But Deputy Public Defender Michelle Tong called the case an excessive witch hunt by women who willingly went for treatment to Guzmangarza but are now making false accusations.
“Mr. Guzmangarza helped so many people,” said Tong, claiming her client knew what he was doing and provided services to women who would otherwise not have been able to afford the elective treatment they went to him for. “Mr. Guzmangarza was skilled and trained,” she said later, adding that his lack of credentials was known so there was an “understanding.”
Arrested in 2011, Guzmangarza took one semester of medical school in his native Mexico and once worked at Kaiser Permanente. He has no license to run a clinic or credentials to practice medicine.
Starting in 2008, he opened and ran a plastic surgery clinic in the Mission that did liposuction, breast and buttocks augmentation and a face lift alternative procedure. During that time, according to the prosecution, out of his Derma Clinic on the 2500 block of Mission Street, he masqueraded as a licensed physician’s assistant and then took advantage of his clients physically, monetarily and psychologically.
But Guzmangarza’s defense countered that narrative, claiming jurors need to look at the credibility of the witnesses, instead of taking the stack of charges and heinous allegations as fact. Additionally, she said the fact that he is unlicensed should not contribute to how the jury sees the case.
“Lack of licensing does not mean Mr. Guzmangarza is guilty of the assault charges,” Tong said.
Tong said the patients not only knew he wasn’t a doctor, but willingly sought out his treatment for his low prices and because he had a reputation as a man who got results.
The patients were not wooed into botched procedures, said Tong, but rather went to Guzmangarza for his cheap prices knowing he was not a doctor. In several cases the patients had treatments at their homes, in a nail salon and at hotels — all places anyone knows a doctor does not go, said Tong.
Additionally, Tong pointed out all the women had reasons to testify against Guzmangarza — from getting additional plastic surgery paid for by the state victims fund to receiving U-visas for their testimony or hiding their indiscretions from husbands and boyfriends.
As for the most serious allegations, sexual assault and rape, Tong claimed they were made by women who continued to receive treatment and even recommend Guzmangarza to their relatives after the alleged incident.
“Who goes and receives … the third, fourth and fifth buttocks injections with this man who did this horrible thing to you?” said Tong of the alleged rape victim, who then recommended Guzmangarza to her sister.
The case is scheduled to continue this week.