January 27, 2015

Feds charge SC legislator for alleged involvement in illegal stem cell shipments

 

State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch (R-Murrells Inlet)

State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch (R-Murrells Inlet)

Federal prosecutors have announced charges against a Georgetown County legislator in regards to his involvement in a stem cell operation.

State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, told reporters Tuesday that he was expecting the charges. A release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas on Wednesday stated Goldfinch had been charged with “misbranding” stem cells.

Goldfinch blamed a former employee for improperly sending stem cells to an Arizona laboratory that investigators say were eventually used for illegal treatments. Investigators said the packaging did not contain directions for use.

The Georgetown Times first reported that Goldfinch was being charged due to his involvement with two companies he help start known as CureSource and Caledonia Consulting LLC. Both companies legally harvested umbilical cords for research purposes, Goldsmith. Caledonia eventually hired a former Medical University of South Carolina professor named Dr. Vincent Dammai to work with lab research.

Goldfinch said he sold Caledonia for $1.2 million in 2008, four years before he ran for public office.

Dammai was arrested in December 2011 after the FBI said he used umbilical cord blood to create stem cells that were then illegally shipped to an Arizona lab, then a Texas clinic that would perform stem cell treatments for cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), and other autoimmune diseases. The shipments lasted from 2006 to 2008, prosecutors said. The Food and Drug Administration has not determined if such treatments are safe and does not allow them. Dammai pleaded guilty to “mislabeling stem cells” earlier this year.

Goldfinch said Wednesday that the FDA regulations he’s charged with violating hold him in “strict liability” for the actions of and independent contractor like Dammai.

“I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. I thought we had done everything right,” Goldfinch told South Carolina Radio Network. “We just trusted the wrong person… Ultimately, I’m relieved nobody was harmed in the mislabeling.”

He expected to plead guilty.

“There’s really no other option in this case for me. The federal law doesn’t require intent and knowledge… So, you don’t have to have any criminal intent. You don’t have to have any knowledge.”

Since the charges are misdemeanors, Goldfinch would not be required to give up his seat in the S.C. House of Representatives even if he pleads guilty.

Dammai disputed Goldfinch’s comments in a posting on his company’s website Tuesday.

“Dr.Dammai will be more than happy to respond at an appropriate time to Goldfinch’s latest tall tales told to Georgetown Times,” the statement said. However, the posting did not give any explanation of what Goldfinch’s “tall tales” are. Dammai did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday asking for clarification.