Police arrested a mother and son in Bellerose for their alleged roles in selling products online made from apricot seeds that they claim prevents cancer, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Jason Vale, 50, and his mother, Barbara Vale, were arrested in their homes on Oct. 23. Barbara was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Wednesday afternoon before the federal court in Brooklyn.
Shortly after his arrest, Jason was taken to a nearby hospital. Prosecutors could not confirm when Jason was scheduled to be arraigned or why he was taken to the hospital.
Between 2013 and October 2019, Jason and Barbara allegedly used a website to sell products made with apricot seeds that they claim prevents cancer, according to charges.
The website, apricotsfromgod.info, claims that the cyanide in the apricot seeds can kill cancer growth in the body. Jason, who claims to be a cancer survivor, allegedly stated that consuming the products and Laetrile, an extract from the apricot seed, were a key factor in beating his terminal cancer, according to the charges.
Court documents state that the FDA does not support the claim that apricot seeds or Laetrile can treat or control cancer. There are no published clinical studies supporting the claim that Laetrile is even safe or effective not just for cancer, but for other diseases.
In 2018 and 2019, undercover agents allegedly made purchases from the Vale’s website and made payments to the website’s linked PayPal account, according to the complaint.
A search found that the email address connected to the PayPal account allegedly belonged to Barbara, and had processed more than $850,000 worth of products made with apricot seeds from January 2013 through Sept. 22, 2019, according to the complaint.
Court documents state that a further search of the email address uncovered emails from dissatisfied customers, including one who said she was poisoned from the website’s products. Barbara also allegedly said in the emails that Jason was “keeping his business going.”
After undercover FDA agents made several orders from the website, Barbara’s 234th Street home was put under surveillance, and it was discovered that Jason and Barbara were running the business out of the residence.
This is not the first time that Jason, who is reportedly a professional arm wrestler, has had trouble with the law.
According to the criminal complaint, Jason was convicted of performing the same acts in 2003 and was ordered to stop selling his products. He was charged with criminal contempt and was sentenced to five years and three months in prison in 2004.
Upon Barbara’s arrest on Wednesday, drums of a hazardous liquid, which a source familiar with the case believes to be dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO), were discovered inside her home.
A hazmat team was on site working to remove the drums Wednesday afternoon.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, if DMSO comes in contact with skin, the compound may cause stinging and burning and lead to an odor of garlic on the breath. The substance reportedly had been used to heal damage from chemotherapy. The FDA has since discontinued using the substance.
Neighbors said they were shocked to see Barbara and her son arrested.
“We never noticed anything. It’s a surprise that this is what they were doing,” Bellerose resident Joginder Singh said.
“We never expected that. It’s so quiet around here. Everyone says hi to each other. It’s a shock,” Navneet Kaur added.
Another resident, who has lived in the neighborhood for 28 years, said she was shocked to learn of her neighbor’s alleged wrongdoing.
“I don’t know what’s going on but from what I’ve been told, it’s something that they shouldn’t have been doing,” said Denille Loprete. “We had no reason to think that they were ever did anything, not one indication.”
Jenna Bagcal contributed to this report.