A Chinese holistic healer in San Francisco was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of selling customers medicinal pills that turned out to contain arsenic and a substance found in toad venom, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Edward Feng, 79, was arrested at his store on 1314 Utah St. after investigators discovered he was selling "Six Spirit Pills" -- a traditional Chinese remedy for colds -- which were later found to contain bufotenine, a substance found in toad venom, officials said.
An affidavit filed by Hilary Rickher, special agent with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, gives more details of Feng's dealings.
Rickher said she was first told about an incident with Feng and 24-year-old Nicholas Eckel, who was being treated for testicular cancer in the University of California at San Francisco in December 2009.
Eckel received treatment for several months in 2009 from Feng, who apparently "jammed" metal probes in Eckel's foot, causing considerable amounts of pain, according to the affidavit.
At the end of June 2009, the affidavit said Eckel ended his treatment and returned to UCSF, where he learned his cancer had progressed.
Eckel's mother, Kathleen Millikin, of Watsonville, was also receiving treatment from Feng at the same time Eckel was being treated for cancer, according to the affidavit.
Millikin sought Feng's treatment in May 2009 during an outbreak of the flu and, according to the affidavit, Feng gave her vials containing small tablets.
Shortly after taking the tablets, Millikin developed an earache, and her hands swelled, formed blisters and the skin started to peel off of them, the affidavit read.
An investigation commenced after Millikin came forward with her account, and in March this year, an undercover agent visited Feng's store, according to the affidavit.
Feng sold the agent five vials of medicine and told the agent that the vials contained poison from a frog, according to the affidavit.
"It's poison, but this good poison," Feng said, according to the affidavit.
Feng was then arrested on Tuesday. He made his initial appearance in court and was released on a $10,000 bond, according to the DOJ.
He will next appear in court on Friday at 9:30 a.m. for an appointment of counsel, according to the DOJ.
If found guilty, Feng could face three years in custody and a fine of $100,000 for each count of intent to defraud or mislead customers, according to the DOJ.