Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
In August 2018, a person contracted HIV after getting a “vampire facial” at an Albuquerque salon.
When officials inspected the business a month later, they discovered unwrapped needles strewn about, unlabeled blood tubes in the kitchen area and phony certificates – for Botox and “vampire facial” training – hanging on the walls.
Now, the former owner of the salon has been indicted on two dozen felonies, including fraud and practicing medicine without a license.
Maria Ramos de Ruiz, 59, former owner of VIP Beauty Salon and Spa at 809 Tijeras NW, is charged with racketeering, fraud, five counts of practicing medicine without a license, six counts of money laundering, four counts of tax evasion and seven counts of willful failure to collect and pay taxes.
Ramos de Ruiz could not be reached for comment.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office began investigating Ramos de Ruiz and her salon following an inspection by the state Department of Health. Officials launched the investigation after a client contracted HIV following a “vampire facial” treatment, a medical procedure in which a provider injects the client’s own blood into the client’s face as a way to rejuvenate the skin.
“Individuals who jeopardize the health and safety of New Mexican families must be held accountable,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting this case at trial.”
Balderas is urging anyone who believes they may have been exposed to a disease through the treatment in question to call his office for information and resources.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed in 2nd Judicial District Court:
The New Mexico Department of Health in August 2018 learned a person with no risk factors for HIV had contracted the bloodborne infection after getting a “vampire facial” at the VIP Beauty Salon and Spa.
The DOH, the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department and deputy director of Boards and Commissions inspected the VIP Spa the following month.
They found Ramos de Ruiz had a cosmetologist license, but the license displayed at the salon had expired in 2013. Ramos de Ruiz told them she does breast and buttocks sculpting, cellulite treatments and “vampire facials.”
Inspectors found “numerous health code violations and unsafe infection control practices,” including unwrapped needles, blood being dumped into the kitchen sink and unlabeled syringes beside food in the refrigerator.
They also found foreign and American prescription and “dangerous” drugs, and medical products that required an order from a licensed physician.
Inspectors discovered inadequate cleaning and disinfection, and Ramos de Ruiz told inspectors that machine tubing was not cleaned or changed between clients.
Inspectors also found on display phony certificates of her education and training, including a certificate to administer “vampire facials,” a diploma suggesting she was trained to perform Botox procedures and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Phoenix.
The organizations listed on the documents, and the University of Phoenix, told officials they either did not hold the courses or had no record of Ramos de Ruiz attending their institutions.
“It appears VIP Spa attempted to give its clients the impression that it was a licensed, accredited medical facility,” an agent wrote.
NMDOH determined “vampire facial” and Botox injections fall under the medical board’s jurisdiction and require a medical license – something Ramos de Ruiz did not have.
In December 2018, the New Mexico Medical Board demanded Ramos de Ruiz stop her unlicensed practice of medicine in the state. And in February 2019, the state Department of Health found a second person who had contracted HIV after getting four “vampire facial” treatments, including one at Ramos de Ruiz’s home.
Both people had the same strain of the HIV virus and told agents they paid $100 for the procedure.
Both clients said they believed Ramos de Ruiz was qualified to perform “vampire facials” due to the training certificates in the building.
In the end, 137 clients received “unlicensed and fraudulent services” from Ramos de Ruiz, and sought tests for HIV and hepatitis, according to the affidavit.