BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU – A well-known doctor who lost his medical license in California in Nov. 2013 for “unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, making false statements on medical records and dishonest-corrupt acts,” related to issuing medical marijuana clearances, is under investigation by the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Regulated Industries Complaints Office, Hawaii Reporter has learned.
Daniel C. Susott, MD, a partner in three Hawaii medical and naturopathic healing clinics, including one in Honolulu’s Manoa Marketplace, is licensed to practice medicine in the state. But after a complaint was filed against him with the DCCA, Susott’s controversial history is under review.
In an exclusive and extensive interview with Hawaii Reporter at his exotic Manoa Valley home, Susott, 63, said a Hawaii RICO investigator is reviewing the reasons he is no longer licensed in California.
The RICO investigator also asked Susott for more detail about a lawsuit filed against him by his brother, Paul Susott, in 2010, which among the many salacious allegations, claims the doctor sexually and financially abused their mother and caused her death, and sexually molested children.
Susott is under additional scrutiny by the DCCA because his business partner in a Cambodian child adoption organization he founded was convicted of visa fraud and money laundering in 2004.
In addition, a 1992 news article on Susott entitled “The man who sells babies” is now also part of Susott’s file with the DCCA. Susott said the article falsely “paints him as a child molester” and someone who “sold babies.” He said the article contains “some really yellow journalism.”
Published on Sunday, April 12, 1992 by Nationwide News Pty. Limited, a nationwide Australian newspaper, the article claimed “Dr. Daniel Susott has made millions of dollars dealing in babies, praying on the vulnerability of the orphans of Phnom Penh’s dingy back streets and the desperation of childless couples.”
California medical board yanks Susott’s medical license
A graduate of Punahou School and the John A. Burns Medical School, Susott is a licensed physician in Hawaii and said he’s practiced medicine for 35 years.
In May 2003, he obtained a Physician and Surgeons license in California, but in Nov. 2013 he voluntarily surrendered his medical license after the State of California accused him of fraud and misrepresentation in the prescription of medical marijuana.
Kimberly Kirchmeyer, interim executive director of the Medical Board of California under the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, filed a complaint against Susott, which was reviewed by an administrative judge.
“Unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, medical records, false statements, and dishonest-corrupt acts” were listed as the first cause for discipline.
Some of the charges stemmed from an event Susott staffed in 2010 for BeLegally Green. Susott was in charge of determining whether attendees at the event should be recommended for medical marijuana use clearance.
After meeting with 254 patients over two, 12-hour days, April 17 and 18, 2010, at the Cow Palace in Daly City California, where the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo was being held, he cleared all 254 patients for medical marijuana use. The clearances were for either three months or one year.
According to the complaint, Susott admitted to investigators that he did not perform meaningful physical examination beyond looking at scars or injuries, and only had his stethoscope with him, judging his patients’ heart and lungs by looking at them, and spending just 7-minutes at most with each patient. He was also accused of falsifying his records from these patient reviews.
“It was established by clear and convincing evidence through a qualified expert that respondent engaged in unprofessional conduct, created false, inadequate and inaccurate medical records, and committed acts of dishonesty and corruption substantially related to practice of medicine,” the complaint said.
Susott denies he falsified the records: “What was there to falsify? It was basically perfunctory to make them legal to go try the products that were there. And let them into the VIP area, which had the, you know, stronger stuff. I have worked several festivals.”
“I was accused of pill milling, cranking them out, and I don’t have a problem with that, but in this case I wasn’t,” Susott said.
The 10-page complaint alleged while he primarily lived in Hawaii, Susott set up several businesses in California focused on medical marijuana recommendations and medical weight loss – including Weed4wellness, can-care wellness, weightbegonefast.com, i-care wellness – that were not properly licensed or staffed.
The medical board sent undercover investigators to Susott’s clinics before seeking to revoke his license.
Susott attended his medical board revocation hearing, but did not testify on his own behalf or have legal representation, the DCCA records show. Instead, he asked an author of a book on marijuana to tell the board about the virtues of the drug.
“They (DCCA) spent a lot of money trying to find something wrong. I could have hired a lawyer, but I don’t make money practicing medicine. I never charged for years and years for medical cannabis consulting. It was always about the movement and not about the money,” Susott said.
Rather than have his license revoked, Susott said he voluntarily surrendered it.
Lawsuit alleges child and elderly sex abuse, financial fraud
John Susott filed a lawsuit against his brother Daniel Susott on December 11, 2011, in California, over The Kathryn C. Susott Living Trust, their deceased mother’s trust, accusing him of “elder financial abuse, elderly physical abuse, wrongful death and conversion constructive trust.”
The lawsuit makes shocking allegations about the physical and sexual abuse he is accused of inflicting on his mother between 1995 and 2009, including “anal rape.”
“On various occasions, Kay was heard to complain that Daniel was giving her daily enemas” …. “administered without any reasonable medical justification,” the complaint said.
Susott said the claims are false: “I gave my mother one enema in her entire life.”
After his mother had bladder surgery, Susott said he taught her to give herself enemas and gave her non-invasive equipment.
The complaint said Susott “violently yanked his frail mother out of bed, yelled at her and insulted her frequently”…. And “kept a private room at his elderly mother’s home, where he was frequently observed sleeping with her.”
The complaint alleged the doctor sexually and physical abused other family members, attempting to suffocate his 9-year-old niece by shoving her face into the carpet at a Christmas event.
During a Christmas vacation in Guatemala in 2006, the doctor “groped the male genitals of a 16-year-old male friend of Daniel’s nephew” … “while they were riding in an automobile” …. “While Daniel was dressed in drag,” the complaint said.
During that same family vacation, the complaint said Susott groped his 9-year-old nephew, but the child didn’t tell his parents for several years. Both incidents were reported to the Monterey County Sherriff.
In 2011, Susott left the family attorney a voicemail saying he would love to “execute” his brother’s wife, Nancy Susott, “and still might,” the complaint said.
Susott denied the allegations, but openly admits he dresses in exotic female clothing, a blonde wig and make up as a “silly” costume to entertain people and make them laugh.
The lawsuit also alleges Susott subjected his mother to financial abuse, taking a $771,939 gift, convincing her to make investments into international real estate for his benefit, making a $362,201 donation to a charity Susott operated, and giving $166,000 in gifts and loans to his friends and colleagues between 1999 and 2008.
Susott, who lived with his mother, also allowed his friends to use his mother’s home for “group sex acts and to use illegal drugs”… “walking around nude in the presence of Kay and her caregivers,” the complaint said.
“At one point, four women friends came down to go through an emotional healing seminar and while they stayed at the house, and you know, it got a little raucous. I have pictures of my mother wearing a carnival mask and just having a ball,” Susott said.
The rest of the allegations a “litany of lies,” Susott said.
The 2010 lawsuit filed against Susott by his brother John Susott also claims Susott lost his position with the group “Doctors on Duty” for “engaging in inappropriate contact with patients and for stealing significant quantities of prescription medications.”
“When I worked in California at an urgent care clinic, I would always go through the free drugs when they were outdating medicine and I would say if they would put it in bags for me, I would take it home. When I would go to Haiti or another mission, I would take suitcases full of stuff that they could not get down there. They turned that around and said that he must have stolen from the mission so I could sell them on the black market,” Susott said. “Are they crazy?”
Susott never answered the lawsuit filed by his brother or officially challenged the allegations of elderly abuse and child abuse, financial fraud and stealing prescription drugs, which reportedly could become an issue in the DCCA investigation, because it was considered a legal default.
After his mother died, Susott filed his own lawsuits against the family and lawyers, but stopped responding in 2012 to all litigation after he “went broke and became depressed.”
“I sued my family in the wake of my mother’s death. She got forced out of her home of 15 years for the money, and put into a locked Alzheimer’s ward when she wasn’t demented. She died in 19 days. I desperately fought to get her out of there. They blocked me with a court order. I promised if anything happened to her on their watch, I would sue everyone. She had a horrible end, I sued everybody, and I’ve been losing ever since. I sued lawyers. And I have not been winning,” Susott said.
“’Bringing people together as family’ was the motto for the world organization I founded, and it is just ironic that I should be engaged in this fight with my own family over things like who gets to steal whose house. It’s like an ugly divorce, alleging all kinds of crazy stuff,” Susott said.
Babies are big business
Richard Cross, a lead investigator for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accused Susott’s business partner, Lauryn Galindo, of facilitating some 800 adoptions over 13 years, many of which were fraudulent, by falsifying paperwork and coercing adoptions.
The federal investigation came after a local human rights group and the Phnom Penh Post exposed Galindo’s adoption operation, Wikipedia said, accusing her of baby-buying and abduction.
The government, according to ABC News, claimed there was evidence to show her adoption business paid Cambodians $15 or “as little as the cost of a bag of rice” for their babies.
At the time, Cambodia babies could be sold to Americans for as much as $13,000 to $19,000, according to news reports.
Galindo pleaded guilty to federal wire and visa fraud charges in 2004 related to 17 adoption cases, and as a result, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and forced to forfeit more than $1.4 million in property in Hawaii.
Her sister, Lynn Devin, also was charged in the case, and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
But in an interview with ABC 20/20 reporter Elizabeth Vargas, Galindo maintained she was not involved in trafficking children. “I have never been involved or charged with anything other than paperwork errors. And that’s what I pled to, that’s what I’m going to go to prison for.”
The U.S. government inspected several orphanages sponsored by Galindo and found “deplorable conditions,” Vargas reported, despite her receiving $2.8 million in orphanage donations.
Galindo had to forfeit her Hawaii beachfront property because U.S. prosecutors claimed she bought it with funds from the adoptions. She also allegedly placed money in off-shore bank accounts, ABC reported.
Her case received international attention, in part because she arranged the adoption of 7-month-old Cambodia orphan Maddox for actress Angelia Jolie.
Galindo’s case and others led the Cambodian government to ban adoptions from 2009 until 2013, while better safeguards were put in place.
A Kauai resident, Galindo has returned to Princeville since being released from prison.
Susott is still close to Galindo, calling her his “hanai” or adopted sister. He compared her to the Catholic humanitarian Mother Teresa, “except with better hair.”
After she was released from federal prison, Susott said he bought her a condo in Princeville, Kauai, “because the way she sees it, I ducked and she took the pie in the face because we had started this adoption program together and then she carried on with her heart.”
“The horror stories that we uncovered about kids abused sexually, chained to beds, burning to death when their whore house burned down, that involved underage girls…. So she kept up the work,” Susott said of Galindo, noting he estimates they “placed almost 1,000 Cambodian orphans into loving families since 1990.”
Susott blames the Bush administration for unfairly prosecuting Galindo and said she is working with the Obama administration, who also believes she was wrongly prosecuted, to clear her name and get restitution.
The money they made on adoptions was redirected through their WORLD FAMILY Foundation that he founded back to the women and children in the community through education and training programs, Susott said.
A future in medicine?
DCCA spokesman Brent Suyama said the agency cannot not comment on specific investigations.
The DCCA does receive notifications from the Federation of State Medical Boards about doctors licensed in Hawaii who lost their medical license in other states, but that can take time. That list is reviewed by an executive officer of the medical review board within the DCCA, and can trigger further investigation.
If there is a complaint filed against a doctor, RICO investigators look into the complaint and then take it before the board with a recommendation on whether disciplinary action should be taken. The investigator does consult an expert in the case, Suyama said.
How long case reviews take vary from case to case and how cooperative a licensee and representative might be.
Susott believes he could also lose his license in Hawaii and is unsure when the issue will be resolved.
“I told RICO that maybe I should surrender my license to practice medicine because I am broke and I am depressed and not even having my day in court because they are winning with all kinds of legal dirty tricks,” Susott said.
He does not know who filed the complaint against him, but claimed it could be a competitor or his family.
Susott has about 450 patients in Hawaii, with his practice largely focusing on “second options, missed airplane work and school letters, companion animal letters, medical cannabis approvals and prescriptions.”
If he does keep his license, he said he is developing a card for marijuana users to carry that will help them avoid getting on the wrong side of the law: “Right now I am in the process of issuing a hard card to be carried in the wallet, which will be the ‘Dr. Daniel Susott patient group,’ which is basically a ‘global stay out of jail free’ card.”
If he loses his license, he will turn his attention more toward his passion for opera singing, film production and book writing. He’ll also continue to care for his Manoa home, which includes the island’s oldest and largest tree house about 6 stories high, decorated with a vast collection of ocean debris, and encompassed in a Buddhist garden where people freely roam.
Susott said he also will continue his community service: “One thing I have been doing is humanitarian outreach missions to the Waianae coast, where I see a houseful of patients, people, who need to be legal, so they won’t get their crops confiscated or have negative conflict with law enforcement. I am going to do something similar in Puna,” Susott said.
At the legislature, Susott is well known among lawmakers, because he testifies in favor of legislation to legalize marijuana and make medical marijuana more easily available. He was also a defense witness in the well-publicized federal drug case against Hawaii Island resident Roger Christie.
As to the lawsuits with his family, Susott said he is “hoping to resolve lawsuits through mediation” and with the help of his fiancée, a retired superior court judge in California.
When asked to describe how he sees himself, Susott said without a pause: “Kindness is my religion. My spiritual path is helping women and children and vulnerable populations. I have been very blessed to be a doctor through most of my life. I don’t worry about making a living and I do go to help the poorest of the poor into situations where nobody else wanted to go. I am very proud of my record, my career, and … I took good care of my mommy.”