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State officials launched a criminal investigation into an Albuquerque beauty salon owner after two former clients were diagnosed with HIV in 2018 and 2019.
On Friday, the former salon owner pleaded guilty to five felony counts of practicing medicine without a license and faces up to 7½ years in prison.
A prosecutor said Friday that Maria de Lordes Ramos de Ruiz, 61, offered a procedure called “vampire facials” to both clients in 2017 and 2018. The procedure involves injecting blood into the face.
She also offered three other procedures limited to the practice of licensed physicians, said Zach Jones, senior criminal counsel for the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Ramos de Ruiz is not a licensed physician, he said.
State Department of Health officials who inspected the now-shuttered VIP Beauty Salon and Spa in 2018 said they found unwrapped needles and unlabeled tubes of blood in the business.
They also found fake certificates for Botox and “vampire facial” training hanging on the walls.
Jones said the procedure called “vampire facials” is known in medical practice as platelet-rich plasma injections. The procedure involves injecting a concentrated form of the client’s own blood into the skin.
Ramos de Ruiz also performed three other procedures limited to the practice by a licensed physician on one or both of the victims, Jones said.
Before accepting the plea on Friday, 2nd Judicial District Judge Lucy Solimon said she could sentence Ramos de Ruiz to up to 7½ years in prison under the plea agreement. No sentencing hearing has been scheduled.
The plea deal also requires Ramos de Ruiz to pay restitution to both victims in amounts to be determined in separate hearings, Solimon said.
The Department of Health learned in August 2018 that a person with no apparent risk factors for HIV had contracted the blood-borne illness after getting a “vampire facial” at the salon.
In February 2019, the Department of Health identified a second person who contracted HIV after getting four treatments from Ramos de Ruiz.
Both people had the same strain of the HIV virus, the agency said. Both told investigators they believed Ramos de Ruiz was qualified to perform the treatments due to the training certificates she displayed in the salon.
Physicians use platelet-rich plasma injections to treat a range of musculoskeletal injuries, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine’s website.
Jones said other procedures Ramos de Ruiz practiced were Botox injections, cryolipolysis or “cool sculpting,” and a fourth called “stem-cell therapy,” which apparently didn’t use real stem cells.