SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man accused of going beyond advocating dietary changes and using intravenous treatments on "patients" he housed at his avocado ranch in Valley Center pleaded not guilty Friday to 18 felony charges, including practicing medicine without a license and grand theft.
Robert Oldham Young, 61, was ordered held on $100,000 bail, and Judge David Szumowski told the defendant to surrender his passport and not have any patients stay at his ranch.
Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas unsuccessfully sought bail of $1 million, arguing that the defendant was a flight risk because he travels extensively and offers health retreats in other countries and has engaged in allegedly dangerous practices with patients.
"Alternative medicine, practiced properly in the state of California is legal," Darvas said outside court. "But there are certain things that only physicians can do, and that includes practices that puncture the skin or harmfully invade the body, or treatment in conditions or circumstances that are ... dangerous. The defendant is charged because he engaged in practices under those conditions. He did things that only a real doctor can do."
Darvas alleged that Young sold treatment to people to people who were terminally ill, knowing that the treatment wouldn't be effective.
The prosecutor said there are a dozen victims named in the criminal complaint, including six who died.
One person paid Young $120,000 for treatment, Darvas said.
Defense attorney Paul Pfingst told the judge that Young was an internationally known proponent of alternative medicine who has written nine books on the subject.
Pfingst said Young has a doctorate and people who come to him for treatment are well aware he's not a medical doctor.
In cases where patients needed to be injected with needles, Young hired licensed doctors and nurses to perform those tasks, Pfingst told reporters outside court.
"Homeopathic medicine is protected by the California Legislature, which has said that the things that my client is accused of doing are legal," Pfingst said. "The tension between the traditional medical community and the homeopathic medical community has been ongoing for many years."
Pfingst said he's not aware of any accusation that any of the health care provided by Young caused any injury to any patients who came to him.
"Some of the patients who came to Dr. Young in the last weeks of their lives, ultimately, because of their terminal disease, died," Pfingst said.
Young was arrested Thursday by members of the U.S. Marshals San Diego Fugitive Task Force, along with 32-year-old Rocio "Rosie" Placensia, an employee of his "pH Miracle Center."
Young -- who advertises the "The pH Miracle" diet to "alkalinize the body" as well as health retreats and medical diagnostic service on his website -- faces 15 years and eight months in state prison if convicted.
Placensia, who is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 30, faces three years in the county jail if convicted of one count of conspiracy to practice medicine without a license, according to prosecutors.
A preliminary hearing was set for May 5.