Modus Alert: “Quack” Aesthetic Doctor Arrested in Makati City
A medical impostor was nabbed by the NBI for defrauding over 500 students.
Makati City, Philippines — The Criminal Intelligence Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested a woman on August 12 for impersonating as a “Professionally Certified Medical Aesthetic Expert,” an “Accredited Aesthetic Clinic Instructor,” and a “Pioneer in Patient Safety Advocate.” A concerned group of public health officials, dermatologists, owners of reputable clinics, former students, and ex-staff filed multiple complaints with the NBI against the owner of a cosmetology academy in Makati City for illegally conducting medical aesthetic training programs and falsely advertising them online as legal ones.
Argonza Aesthetic and Dermopigmentation Academy owner Wenie Garupa Argonza allegedly promised students in exchange for their enrollment in her aesthetic training programs that she would issue them a “Professionally Recognized and Accredited” aesthetic training certificate that would allow them to legally perform aesthetic treatments and operate medical spa clinics in the Philippines. She was also tricking students by promoting the UK Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program, which the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) confirmed is not a recognized credential in the Philippines.
The NBI Criminal Intelligence Division team had suspicions about the suspect and her academy, so they checked with the Professional Regulation Commission. They found out that the name “Wenie Garupa Argonza” is not listed in the registry of Filipino physicians who are authorized to practice medicine legally in the Philippines and that her academy is not recognized as a legitimate provider of accredited CPD courses.
According to the NBI, the suspect was also not qualified to teach others in the field of cosmetology given that she had not attended a TESDA National Certification Training Program and passed the Competency Standard to become a professional cosmetologist. Worse than that, her academy’s training programs weren’t TESDA-approved, therefore the certifications she issued to her students were worthless forgeries.
Moreover, NBI was able to confirm from the Makati City Government that “Argonza Aesthetics and Dermopigmentation Academy” was not a registered business entity. This was clear evidence that the suspect was running a criminal operation.
After discovering that Argonza was a fraud, the complainants took the initiative to schedule a training session with the suspect at her academy. They orchestrated an entrapment operation with the NBI-CID team to catch the suspect in the act of giving clinical lectures, injecting a controlled substance, and performing dermatological aesthetic procedures. As soon as the asset handed over the PHP300,000 marked money as payment for a one-day course and take-home materials, the NBI operatives immediately approached the suspect and informed her that she was being arrested.
The NBI-CID team confiscated several pieces of unregistered needles, syringes, surgical pens, injectable drugs, prescription strength medicines, and a variety of other cosmetic products from the suspect—all tampered with and branded with the FDA emblem. They also found false official receipts, counterfeit brands of laser radiation machines, and other fake-branded medical devices.
The suspect failed to show the NBI with any proof of authorization, permit, license, certificate of registration, accreditation, compliance, exemption, or any other document from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the medical devices and machines she used to treat her patients during the hands-on training session.
In accordance with standard protocol, the suspect was immediately transferred to the NBI’s booking facility in Quezon City. Her alleged accomplice in all of her illegal activities, Glenmae Tendencia Bobier, was also detained. On their third day in custody, they were delivered to the Department of Justice National Prosecution Office in Makati City for inquest proceedings and were set to be charged with large-scale cyber-estafa in violation of the Philippines’ Cybercrime Prevention Act and of breaking Section 68, Chapter 1, Title V of the Education Act of 1982 under TESDA.
The suspect will also face multiple criminal charges, including violations of Republic Act No. 2382 (Illegal Practice of Medicine), Republic Act No. 9711, (Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009), Article 174 of the Revised Penal Code (Falsification of Public Documents), and Republic Act No. 8424 (“The Tax Reform Act of 1997). If proven guilty, she may face a lifetime of imprisonment in jail.
Furthermore, additional complaints have been filed against the suspect, alleging violations of Republic Act No. 10607 (The Insurance Code of the Philippines), Republic Act No. 11232 (Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines), and Republic Act No. 8424 (Tax Reform Act of 1997). All of which are legitimate allegations presented with solid evidence by the same complainants against Argonza, who is accused of being the mastermind of a syndicated cyber-estafa that exploited a nonprofit organization to solicit large sums of money from a significant number of people. As claimed by the victims, the suspect collected payments for membership fees, professional liability insurance premiums and clinic licensing fees, and then instructed them to send cash payments via online money transfer but never provided official receipts despite repeated requests from payor.
The members of the organization said they were tricked into believing they would receive a “Professionally Recognized” aesthetician membership certificate since the suspect boasted about being legally registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and declaring itself to be “One of the Most Prestigious Organizations in the Philippines,” founded in collaboration with TESDA, DOH, and HEART. The suspect also promised to provide professional mentorship from all six officers, all of whom claimed to be “Grandmasters” in the cosmetology and aesthetic professions.
Meanwhile, based on the investigation report, none of the officers possessed National Certification to practice cosmetology and were not authorized to offer cosmetology training programs, as validated by TESDA’s legal credential assessors. It was also discovered that the Organization was not registered as a business entity with the Makati City Government. Neither was authorized with the Bureau of Internal Revenue to collect payments for financial profit. The National Bureau of Investigation and other several law enforcement agencies have already been notified.
If you are a victim of this crime, please contact the NBI Criminal Intelligence Division at (02) 8524-1278 or email@example.com. You may also send a message to the NBI via their website at www.nbi.gov.ph or their official Facebook account. The NBI believes that working with law enforcement agencies, other regulatory bodies, the media, and the public is a collective responsibility to ensure that illegal practitioners are exposed, reported, and prosecuted.