CA: Dr. Vo Agrees to Probation in Guilty Plea, Pay $300K in Fines, Restitution

Local Physician to Be Sentenced on Misdemeanor Conviction in San Diego Federal Court on Nov. 16 Following Years-Long Investigation

Dr. Tien Tan Vo, one of the Imperial Valley’s most high-profile physicians, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor crimes related to his years-long use of foreign unapproved and misbranded cosmetic drugs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California.

Vo pleaded guilty to receipt of misbranded drugs in interstate commerce and being an accessory after the fact to an accomplice, who smuggled the unapproved drugs into the United States from Mexico, according to the U.S. Attorney media release sent out on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 24. 

“The parties have agreed in the plea agreement to jointly recommend probation instead of custody time, and to recommend forfeiture of $100,767 as well as a fine of $201,534,” Cindy Cipriani, executive assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California, confirmed in an email on Friday, Aug. 25.

The dollar amounts Cipriani referenced are the gross receipts ($100,767) for almost four years of cosmetic services performed with unapproved drugs and devices Vo acknowledged he received, and the fine ($201,534) Vo agreed to pay.

The restitution Vo has agreed to the more than 10 victims of his offense is the same as the gross receipts — $100,767 — “but that amount will be fixed at sentencing,” according to the Cipriani.

In his plea agreement, the 47-year-old Vo admitted that none of the injectable botulinum toxin or lip fillers used by his clinics between November 2016 and October 2020 was approved for use in the United States. This specifically included a botulinum toxin product called “Xeomeen” and an injectable lip filler called Probcel — both products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Also in his plea agreement, Vo admitted purchasing most of his unapproved drugs and devices from the operator of a “med spa” in Mexicali, who smuggled them into the United States without declaring them. 

Although it couldn’t immediately be confirmed, Vo’s offices in El Centro and Calexico had been raided by Homeland Security Investigations, FDA and FBI agents on at least two occasions each — October 2020 and September 2021. During both of those instances, federal officials declined to reveal the nature of the investigations. Vo also maintains a clinic in Brawley, but it wasn’t known if those facilities were searched as well.

At the time of the October 2020 raid, Vo spoke to the Calexico Chronicle. He said that “someone” had reported his clinics to the FDA, although he did not say what his office was being accused of, adding that he did not know for sure what the allegations were.

“Not much details, but they said I didn’t have what they are looking for, so they let us open (the) office again,” Vo said in October.

The physician said he was told to have his attorney contact “them,” but Vo said he didn’t do anything wrong, so he never got an attorney.

After the September 2021 raid, he declined to comment directly, but posted a statement to the Calexico Chronicle’s Facebook page:

“Thank you everyone. The government is just doing their things to make sure everything is good for the safety of our lives. First raid was stopped per the attorney n now 2 nd raid i think people are kept asking government to do their things so we r here to cooperate and as much as we can. We will continue our work more n more for our community.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Haden issued a statement after the plea agreement.

“All members of our community should be able to trust that their doctor is acting in their best interest,” Haden said. “Through this prosecution, we are protecting patients from unapproved and potentially unsafe drugs and will always seek to thwart those who would exploit patients for financial gain.”

“Injecting unapproved medicines poses a significant threat to public health and can have serious consequences for individuals,” said Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Diego. “Together, with our partnered agencies, we need to educate people of the dangers caused by using unauthorized botulinum toxin (the active ingredient in Botox®, Xeomin®, and similar products) and thwart those who smuggle and illegally use it for cosmetic procedures.”

“The FDA’s requirements help ensure that patients receive safe and effective medical treatments. Evading the FDA process and distributing unapproved drugs to U.S. consumers will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert M. Iwanicki, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Los Angeles Field Office.  “We will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who traffic in unapproved drugs.”

Sentencing is set for Nov. 16 at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison H. Goddard.Potential victims related to this case may provide or request information by emailing

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