DULUTH - Patients of Clinica Santa Fe might want to get a second opinion.
Authorities arrested two Gwinnett residents during a raid Wednesday morning for allegedly posing as doctors - and a third person for allegedly forging prescriptions - at the Duluth clinic.
The suspects catered to a mostly Hispanic clientele in a shopping center space at 3750 Venture Drive, near Interstate 85, Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said.
A Sheriff's Department investigation into Clinica Santa Fe began last November and came to a head Wednesday with the three arrests. Bourbonnais said more arrests are expected.
Services offered at the clinic "pretty much ran the gamut, just like any other clinic that you would go to," Bourbonnais said.
In December, an undercover deputy was misdiagnosed at the clinic for a condition involving a bone spur. He declined treatment, but the incident was evidence enough to issue the warrants served at the clinic Wednesday, Bourbonnais said.
The investigation also revealed that patients treated at the clinic were later admitted to Gwinnett Medical Center for further care. Bourbonnais was unsure if the hospital visits were triggered by clinic practices, or if patients' existing conditions had deteriorated.
Manuel Lozano, 43, of Suwanee, and Sheila Colon-Villarrubia, 27, of Norcross, are charged with practicing medicine without a license for posing as doctors, Bourbonnais said.
Columbia-born Lozano was also arrested in July 2006 on charges of deposit account fraud, according to jail records.
A third suspect arrested later Wednesday, Dilana Infante, 19, is charged with two counts of forgery for allegedly faking prescriptions. She worked as a clinic receptionist, Bourbonnais said.
Bourbonnais couldn't reveal how investigators were tipped off to clinic practices, noting only that the case "originated with Sheriff (Butch) Conway - I can't go into anything further," she said. The clinic employs part-time doctors who have legitimate licenses, she said.
Investigators believe the phony doctors specifically targeted illegal immigrants. They inflated prices for medical services for people who typically shy from legitimate practices, Bourbonnais said.
"If your legal status in this county is in question, you're probably not going to go to a hospital," Bourbonnais said.
Wednesday's multi-agency raid included officials from the local Sheriff's Department, the Gwinnett District Attorney's Office, the Georgia State Medical Board and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency.
Pending further arrests, officials will direct their energy into finding victims, Bourbonnais said.
"Obviously, we don't know how many victims are out there," she said. "There could be victims that we never locate."