Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, where Jason Vale was sentenced on
Jason Vale, the Internet entrepreneur from Bellerose who has been
incarcerated since last August on charges of illegal sales of apricot seeds
as a cure for cancer, was sentenced last Friday at Brooklyn federal court to
five years and three months in prison.
Vale, 36, had built a modestly successful empire by selling his products
as alternative medicine for cancer. He spammed over 20- million AOL
customers (which landed him a separate fine of $1 million by AOL) and
claimed his methods could cure “99.95 percent” of all cancer cases.
the spamming which initiated the FDA investigation, when AOL members complained
about the excessive e-mails, not the drug itself. Much of his own argument
during the sentencing came from the fact that the company had yet to receive a
single complaint from users of its products.
The sentencing was expected by Vale’s family members to only address the
“criminal contempt” charges which Vale incurred after continuing the seed
company even after he had been prohibited by court order.
His enterprise, even after his initial arrest four years ago, continued to do
well after he was jailed. Instead of bringing company activity to a halt, the
court contends that he continued the business through alias names and by
enlisting the help of his family. Family members interviewed have claimed it was
of their own volition.
The other, and more serious, charges in question were those of fraud, which
could landed him up to 30 years in prison, instead, for sale of a product that
was fraudulently marketed as a cure for cancer.
Vale looked more wan and thin than in pictures that still appear on the Seeds
of Faith Web site (run for his defense fund) as a world championship
arm-wrestler. Throughout the proceedings, he cast long glances toward his
parents, siblings and extended family, who sat in the gallery.
Like many of his customers, Vale has also suffered from a cancerous tumor. He
was diagnosed 10 years ago and resorted to alternative medicine when
chemotherapy failed to reduce his tumor. What he discovered is what he now
contends, even from behind bars, is a veritable miracle.
According to Vale, his tumor shrunk when he started ingesting apricot seeds
and Laetrile. He found the “cure” while researching alternative medicine
treatments after he was diagnosed and now believes it should be available to all
cancer patients who so desire. The judge didn’t agree.
There was some dispute over which guidelines for indictment to use at the
hearing, as the prosecution and judge discussed the implications of sentencing
the defendant with both the “vulnerable victim” or the “criminal contempt”
guidelines, for violating his last court order to stop selling the seeds. This
is despite the judge’s decision at a hearing on May 6th, to not charge the
defendant with fraud.
Much of the prosecution’s success came down to semantics. Although Vale
wasn’t charged by the FDA for making fraudulent remarks or selling a faulty
drug, in Judge John Gleeson’s opinion fraud referred to faulty and unqualified
statements, such as “99.95 percent effective,” which he said Vale used knowing
they were misleading. “While I believe you think it is a useful drug in
prevention of cancer, I do not think you truly believed it was 99.95 percent
effective,” Judge Gleeson said.
Another point of contention was that although they had agreed to use the
“vulnerable victim” guidelines (not the ones for “obstruction of justice”), Vale
piped up that there were no victims since not one complaint arose from the
thousands of orders they had filled.
Judge Gleeson argued that there were many complaints, even though those were
from AOL members in regards to being “spammed” with his advertisements. Vale
argued that they weren’t harmed by the drug and felt it was an entirely
different thing, but Judge Gleeson said, “That is harmful.”
Vale plans to appeal, but in the meantime he requested transfer from jail in
Valhalla to a penitentiary in Florida, which Judge Gleeson agreed to recommend.
Outside the courtroom, his brother, Jared, sounded optimistic. “He’s got a
good attitude, obviously, given his little remarks,” he said. “Regardless of
what the judge says, everyone who knows Jason believes that he believes in this
1,000 percent regardless of whatever interpretation the judge may have.”
On whether he thought the judgment was fair, Vale’s brother was mostly
relieved that it wasn’t the maximum sentence of 30 years for fraud.
“It was very good that they took off the table 200 some-odd months,” which he
said would help the family cope. “You go between 20 and 30 years to arguing
between one and six, that’s a lot easier on the family.”
Vale’s own tumor, which has gone untreated since his incarceration is another
issue, to both Vale’s family and the court’s consideration. Judge Gleeson found,
through a court-appointed doctor’s evaluation, that he still had the tumor and
the judge admitted it had set his mind at ease that Vale was at least honestly
convinced of the apricot seeds’ value.
Vale has announced that, despite the potential of the tumor creating a life
sentence for him while he is incarcerated, he is refusing traditional methods of
treatment and will not accept chemotherapy or removal of the tumor.
The only option for treatment, in his mind, is apricot seeds. Jared Vale
believes Jason would die for this cause.
“It definitely grew. Significantly,” Jared Vale said. “The doctor’s test
shows that. That was one of the reasons why the judge showed a little bit of
understanding to Jason even though he called him a fraud.”
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