Fresno police say a San Diego County man masqueraded as a doctor and disfigured several local women by giving them cosmetic lip injections that later hardened into painful lumps.
Mario Nieves Perez, 45, is being held in Fresno County Jail on suspicion of causing great bodily injury while performing an unlicensed medical procedure. He also faces misdemeanor charges for possessing business cards that falsely said he was a doctor.
Fresno police were alerted by a dermatologist who had treated four women who said they received injections from Perez at a Fresno beauty salon, Lt. Don Gross said Friday. "It's probably going to require surgery to get these things fixed," he said.
The dermatologist, who contacted police Sept. 25, told officers the injections were performed by a man claiming to be a doctor from Mexico. Two victims who came forward identified the man as Mario Nieves and said he had performed the injections at Permanent Beauty on East Shaw Avenue in March and April.
Police learned Perez would be returning to Permanent Beauty on Thursday to do more injections. They were waiting to question him and arrested him later that day.
Gross said Perez initially claimed to be a doctor, but once he realized the amount of knowledge the police had, he told a different story.
Police said Perez had been performing the injections for the past 18 months and had done other cosmetic procedures for which he wasn't licensed. He admitted to police that he is not a doctor either in the U.S. or in Mexico.
Perez told the women he was injecting a type of collagen, police said. But after injection, it hardened and created painful lumps.
Police don't know what Perez injected into the women, Gross said. They confiscated needles and vials that have been sent to the Department of Justice for testing.
Perez allegedly was charging $100 for the injections. If performed by a doctor, police said, the procedure would cost from $500 to $2,500.
Gross said Fresno police were accompanied by investigators from the state Department of Consumer Affairs, who -- among other things -- looked at the licensing of Permanent Beauty. It was unclear what action they might take, and a phone message left at Permanent Beauty was not returned Friday afternoon.
Though only two victims have come forward, police believe there are more, including some treated at other locations.
Police are not releasing the victims' names.
Candis Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California, said anyone considering a medical procedure should contact the board to confirm the person preparing to provide the procedure is licensed.
"I want to strongly warn the public away from unlicensed practitioners," she said.
The Medical Board of California provides an online licensing search at http://www.mbc.ca.gov/Index.htm or by calling the Consumer Information Unit at (916) 263-2382.
The local investigation is continuing as police look for more alleged victims and locations where Perez allegedly gave the injections.
Anyone with information or who was a victim is asked to call detective Pam Kobashi at (559) 621-6316.