Hansjorg Wyss, a prominent Clinton Foundation donor and bankroller of liberal activist groups, will face charges of running a “criminal profiteering enterprise” through the illegal use of a drug and in violation of federal patient safety rules that resulted in the death of a 67-year old woman, the Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
Washington State Superior Court Judge Dean Lum agreed on October 30 that Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who has given more than $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, can stand trial under the state’s racketeering laws for leading a criminal enterprise that caused the death of Reba Golden. She died during an illegal drug test conducted by Wyss’s company in 2007.
The Washington suit charged Wyss, the former CEO of a Pennsylvania-based medical device company called Synthes and his co-defendants with murder in the second degree (a class A felony), second degree assault, and criminal profiteering under the Washington Criminal Profiteering Act.
Wyss faces a statutory civil penalty of $250,000 for each violation, amounting to $9.2 million for “personal injury to and death of Mrs. Golden. He has 37 violations.
The plaintiff is Reba Golden’s daughter, Cynthia Wilson, whose mother died in 2007 on the operating table after Synthes organized illegal “market tests” for at least 50 persons across the country of an untested bone cement substance that the Food and Drug Administration banned for use in the spine.
Ultimately, five patients died during the illicit drug testing. Synthes failed to report the deaths to the FDA, as required by law, until the third fatality occurred.
Wyss “entered into a criminal enterprise to perform illegal and experimental surgeries on patients,” Daniel Hannula, Golden’s attorney, told The DCNF.
The Washington racketeering charges puts a new spotlight on Wyss’ use of untested medical procedures without patient consent, his effort to hide his activities from the FDA and of multiple attempts to thwart federal safety regulations.
The case could embarrass former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, the former White House Chief of Staff who is national campaign manager for her bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Last December, the Clinton Foundation accepted a $5 million commitment from Wyss. When he headed the Center for American Progress, Podesta accepted millions from Wyss and put him on CAP’s board of directors. Podesta personally was a paid consultant to Wyss’ private foundation.
Also embarrassing for Clinton is that Wyss’ donation was dedicated to the foundation’s “No Ceilings” project to help at-risk girls and women. Wyss has been the subject of multiple allegations of sexual abuse and settled one case for $1.5 million with Jackie Long, a Colorado woman who once was an employee at a Wyss private foundation.
The Washington state case mirrors a 97-count federal grand jury criminal indictment filed in 2009 against Wyss, Synthes, and its subsidiary, Norian Corp. That case was settled out of court in a 2011 settlement with the Department of Justice.
At a 2011 sentencing for Wyss’s top executives who went to jail, U.S. prosecutor Mary Crawley told Federal Judge Legrome Davis that Synthes “used these people, these elderly patients, as guinea pigs and ignored time-honored principles of informed consent.”
Crawley called it “human experimentation,” noting:
They all have undermined the fundamental procedural protections that separate a civilized society from an uncivilized society when it comes to human experimentation.
Norian Corporation, which marketed the illicit drug, was fined $22.5 million.
Unlike his four top aides, Wyss escaped imprisonment under the settlement. The Justice Department has never provided an official reason for not imposing prison time on Wyss. But the new lawsuit could rekindle interest in the case.
“Mr. Hansjorg Wyss was the controlling stockholder and ranking executive of Synthes and Norian Corporation and the leader of a criminal enterprise,” the complaint states. “The criminal enterprise engaged, for profit, in a pattern of criminal profiteering activity,” enticed by the prospect of a company forecast of $3 million in after-tax profit for the first year of sales.
Judge Davis agreed case was about profits, saying their behavior was “generated by a desire to realize the immense profits.”
Hannula told the DCNF, “They completely ignored what was required of them in order to get their product to the market as quickly as possible because they recognized that this was a market of huge financial potential.”
Federal prosecutors in 2009 made it clear that Wyss directed the company’s decision to forgo rigorous FDA testing, which required an Investigational Device Exemption.
The grand jury identified Wyss as “Person No. 7” and reported, “Person No. 7 decided that Synthes would not pursue an IDE study, but instead get a few sites to perform 60-80 procedures.”
Dr. Jens Chapman, a University of Washington spinal surgeon who did the surgery on Golden, had previously found in testing that pigs faced “immediate death” following injection of the cement. Chapman is a named defendant in the Washington case.
Chapman failed to disclose to his patients that he was a paid medical consultant to Synthes and that he was the recipient of a $2 million donation for the Hansjorg Wyss Endowed Chair that went through the University of Washington where he practiced.
The university and Harborview Medical Center where the surgery took place are also defendants.
The complaint alleges that Chapman was “willfully, negligently and recklessly ignoring FDA rules and regulations and the likelihood to harm unsuspecting patients.”
Davis said “what has occurred in this case, in terms of wrongfulness, it’s 11 on a scale of 10.”
Wyss attorney and a spokeswoman for the University of Washington declined to comment. Spokesmen for the Clinton campaign and an attorney representing Chapman did not return telephone calls or emails from TheDCNF seeking comment.
This report, by Blake Neff, Jonah Bennett, Ivan Plis, Josh Fatzick, Richard Pollock, Erisca Wenig, Connor D. Wolf, Rachel Stoltzfoos, Casey Harper, Michael Bastasch, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.