A Seattle Times Investigation
They cure cancer, reduce cholesterol, even eliminate AIDS. Their operators say these "energy medicine" devices work by transmitting radio frequencies or electromagnetic waves through the body, identifying problems, then "zapping" them. Their claims are a fraud. The Seattle Times has found that thousands of these unproven devices — many of them illegal or dangerous — are used in hundreds of venues nationwide. Read more about this project.
William Nelson orchestrates one of America's boldest health-care frauds from Budapest, Hungary, where he rakes in tens of millions of dollars selling a machine called the EPFX that offers bogus treatments.
William Nelson claims to hold eight doctorates, but those don't check out. In reality, he's a charlatan who fled the U.S. rather than face federal charges on nine counts of fraud.
The machines they believed in
The EPFX's slick and sophisticated graphics may impress, but no scientific research shows that energy machines can diagnose or cure medical problems. This session was at the Puyallup Fair in 2007.
The booth, operated by several practitioners, was visited by more than 400 people who paid $20 for half-hour sessions.
The people who died
Karen McBeth, of Seattle, whose cancer had spread, spent $17,000 on one of William Nelson's EPFX machines. Her family said traveling to treatments robbed her of precious time with them.
JoAnn Burggraf, of Oklahoma, sought EPFX treatment for joint pain because she didn't trust doctors. Undiagnosed leukemia painfully racked her body before finally killing her.
Federal fugitive William Nelson has created a global, multi-million dollar empire that began in Colorado during the late 1980s when he sold 139 of his homemade medical devices. Today from Budapest, his sales and training network spans 32 countries.
Panos Pappas calls the PAP-IMI "modern scientific alchemy" and "micro-lightning." Others call it "a piece of junk" and "the worst of the newest technologies."
While the FDA prohibited using the machine for any medical treatment in 2005, The Seattle Times found PAP-IMIs in use in at least five states, including Washington.
Payayiotis Samaras, 65, has the tumor on his neck treated with a PAP-IMI twice a week in Pappas' Athens office, at no cost. Sammas claims the growth was huge, puffy and a deep blue and is now greatly reduced in size.
The Seattle Times has found that scores of "energy medicine" practitioners are graduates of a multimillion-dollar industry that gives them deceptive credentials. These people buy the appearance of legitimacy through an international network of unaccredited health-care schools and murky trade associations.
The last hours: Cancer patient Sean Flanagan is joined by his family the same day he was treated by Brian O'Connell. He died the next day, six months sooner than medical doctors had predicted.
Updates on this project