Washington sues plastic surgery provider for fake reviews
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – A Seattle-area plastic surgery provider is facing a federal indictment for posting false positive reviews online and intimidating or bribing patients to remove negative reviews, state prosecutors said Thursday. Washington.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office says Allure Esthetic and its owner, Dr. Javad Sajan, defrauded patients and the public “through a host of illegal, unfair and deceptive practices”. The company allegedly instructed its employees to create fake email accounts in order to write and post fictitious positive reviews on sites including Google and Yelp.
Allure threatened to sue patients if they refused to delete the negative comments, the suit says. Other times, he offered patients money and free services or products to remove negative reviews. The practice also had more than 10,000 patients sign nondisclosure agreements before receiving treatment that restricted them from posting negative comments online, the suit says.
Allure performs surgical and non-surgical treatments ranging from Botox to gender-affirmation procedures, the release said.
“Threatening and bribing customers to prevent them from sharing the truth about their experience is not just wrong, it’s illegal,” Ferguson said in a news release. “Patients rely on reviews to determine whether a health care provider is right for them, and using legal threats and bribes to manipulate those reviews is deceptive and hurts Washingtonians.”
Allure did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. When called by an Associated Press reporter Thursday, a person who answered the phone for the company hung up three times.
A version of the NDA used from 2017 to 2019 also requires the defendants to agree to waive their health privacy rights, stating that they must allow the provider to include personal health information in responses to posts. negative, the lawsuit claims.
Some patients said they were not informed of the agreement and did not know they had signed it, as it was given to them in a thick stack of pre-procedure paperwork to complete before receiving treatment.
Victoria Hester said she made an appointment with Sajan in 2021 for a gender affirmation procedure based on positive reviews online. Speaking through tears at a press conference on Friday alongside Ferguson, Hester said the encounter ended up causing “long-term trauma”, describing the doctor’s examination of her body as “humiliating”. Sajan refused to perform the procedure, Hester said.
“I wrote a negative review because of the way he searched my body and humiliated me in his office,” Hester said. Soon after, Allure called and threatened legal action.
“I had never heard of signing this NDA. And I never knew that a practice would require this, to try to prevent people from sharing their experience,” Hester said. “I posted my negative comment because I wanted other transgender and gender nonconforming patients to be aware of what I experienced. “
According to the lawsuit, Allure considered anything below four stars a negative review.
From 2017 to 2022, Allure made patients sign “pre-service” nondisclosure agreements that required them to contact the company with any concerns rather than posting about it online in a negative review.
Some patients who posted negative reviews were contacted by Allure with offers of money or free services and products in exchange for their post being removed. Patients who accepted the offer were required to sign a second NDA obliging them to remove the review and refrain from posting negative reviews in the future under threat of a $250,000 fine, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit cites former employees who said they were directed to create Gmail accounts with stock photos for profile pictures and use them to review other businesses in the Seattle area, including Applebee’s restaurants and change locations. of Pennzoil oil, in order to impersonate a real consumer and avoid detection by online review platforms.
According to the lawsuit, Allure instructed employees to edit “before and after” photos to make the results of her procedures look more flattering.
According to the lawsuit, Allure Esthetic does business under several names, including Alderwood Surgery Center, Cosmetic Surgery Gallery, Seattle Plastic Surgery, Northwest Nasal Sinus Center and Northwest Face and Body.
Ferguson filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
This story has been updated to correct the name of the owner of the plastic surgery provider. He is Dr. Javad Sajan, not Dr. Javad Savan.