Interpol officials have tracked down a Llandudno couple on the run from the FBI after being accused of running a huge medicinal stem cell scam while in the United States.
Stephen van Rooyen, 44, and his model girlfriend, Laura Brown, 35, of Fisherman's Walk in Llandudno, were wanted for allegedly offering useless drugs to terminally ill patients across the US and Europe.
Police spokesperson Elliot Sinyangana on Monday confirmed the couple were still at liberty but had been served with summonses to appear at an extradition hearing in Kempton Park on Thursday.
Sinyangana said although warrants for arrests had been issued, the couple had won an agreement with Interpol officials that they would not be held in custody, on the strength of their commitment to appear in court later this week.
Van Rooyen and Brown were accused of distributing untested stem-cell treatment drugs...
After fleeing the US in 2003, the couple returned to South Africa and allegedly launched a similar Internet-based operation from a clinic in Hout Bay.
But Interpol detectives arrested them as they arrived at Johannesburg airport from a Seychelles holiday on June 10.
Backed by a high-powered legal team, Van Rooyen and Brown secured bail, but later the FBI learned the couple had also fallen foul of South African police.
The two faced new fraud charges in Cape Town, thus breaking their bail conditions and prompting the quest for their rearrest.
Earlier, a Hout Bay police source said extradition documents were "in place" and the couple could be on their way to face proceedings in the United States "in hours or a day or two".
A lengthy international investigation culminated in a 51-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Atlanta in March this year.
Van Rooyen and Brown were accused of distributing untested stem-cell treatment drugs "without any basis in science".
The couple had allegedly been paid "thousands of dollars by individuals" suffering from motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and other serious and incurable diseases.
US State Attorney David Nahmias said in a statement that Van Rooyen and Brown had "provided false and misleading information about the effectiveness of stem-cell treatment".
The grand jury decision to prosecute followed an intensive three-year probe by the FBI and special agents of the US Food and Drug Administration.
The US charges against Van Rooyen and Brown include fraud and distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs.
The couple had allegedly marketed their products online to desperate patients in several countries, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, India, Trinidad, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and the Ukraine.
Nahmias said the alleged scam posed a grave threat to patients' health. "This type of fraud is especially harmful because it victimises people in the most vulnerable situation," he said.
The allegations date back to September 2002, when hopeful patients started flocking to clinics and paid thousands of dollars for supposed miracle cures.
Van Rooyen and Brown had met in Los Angeles in the late 1990s. In 2002 they went to Atlanta to join an osteopath, Mitchell Chen, in his business.
The couple learnt about stem-cell treatment when Chen told them about his interest in umbilical cord blood and stem cells.
After a few months they broke with Chen and formed Biomark, which fell foul of US authorities.
The couple left the United States late in 2003, after the Federal Districts Attorney's office raided their offices in Miami.
(This article was originally published on page 1 of Cape Argus on August 07, 2006)
It takes all sorts..........Sarah