Defiant Black Salve Seller Gets Six-Year Prison Sentence

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In 2017, Samuel A. Girod, 57, was sentenced to six years in prison plus three years of supervised release for (a) impeding an officer of the United States, (b) obstruction of proceedings before a federal agency, (c) witness tampering, (d) failure to appear, and (e) nine violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act involving products he made and distributed. The judge also ordered Girod to pay a $1,300 assessment plus $14,239.08 in restitution to customers [1]. At various times, Girod did business as Satterfield Naturals, S.A.E.G., and A.M.S. Associates, through which he manufactured and/or marketed products for treating such ailments as skin disorders, cancer, and sinus infections.

Background History

Press reports indicate that Girod is Amish and lives on a family farm with his wife and their 12 children and 25 grandchildren. They also note that he has made and sold herbal products for over 20 years but has never registered with the FDA [2]. Court documents indicate that he has been the object of FDA regulatory attention since at least 2001:

  • In 2001, FDA inspectors who visited Girod's manufacturing operation in New Canaan, Indiana, noted that "Chickweed Healing Salve" contained comfrey and was claimed to be "good for all skin disorders. Skin cancer, cuts, burns, draws, and poison ivy.

  • In 2003, the Ohio Department of Agriculture sent a letter warning that the claims were illegal.

  • In 2004 and 2005, FDA inspectors reported that the product labels had not changed and that Girod would not let them examine the manufacturing facility.
  • In 2006, after Girod moved his operation to Owingsville, Kentucky, the FDA found that the product labels had not changed. Girod again refused to permit inspection of his manufacturing operation, which was located in his home and barn.

  • In 2010, the FDA inspected a distributor of the Chickweed salve in Madison, Indiana and found that the labeling had not changed. In 2012, the FDA visited Girod's Kentucky facility and found that the Chickweed labeling had not changed. In addition, labels for "TO-MORE-GONE" black salve listed bloodroot as an ingredient and "R.E.P."was labeled "for sinus infections." Girod again refused to permit inspection of the manufacturing operation. The inspectors concluded that "TO-MORE-GONE," which contained bloodroot, did not bear adequate directions for use because it failed to warn that applying bloodroot to the skin can produce a thick scar that can mask tumor recurrence. The FDA also noted that Girod's Web sites and promotional literature made additional claims for "Chickweed Healing Salve" and claimed that "TO-MORE-GONE" is effective against warts, moles, infections, fungoid tumors, nasal polyps, periodontal infections, gingivitis, plague, and cancers (carcinomas and sarcomas).
 


Ad from Farm Bureau News, June 2010

  • In 2012, the FDA filed a civil forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Missouri, directed at products that Girod had made in Kentucky and shipped to Notions-n-Things in Gardasil, Missouri [3]. The complaint noted that the FDA had inspected Notions-n-Things in response to reports from two consumers, one of whom had needed medical treatment after using the chickweed salve on her leg. The complaint noted that the chickweed salve contained comfrey, which may increase the risk of systemic toxicity, and that the bloodroot in "TO-MORE-GONE" is a caustic substance that produces a thick scar that can mask tumor recurrence.¬†With court authorization, U.S. Marshals seized 1,149 tins of the chickweed salve, 244 tins of "TO-MORE-GONE," and 316 bottles of "R.E.P." held by Notions-n-Things.

  • In 2013, noting that Girod's products were unapproved new drugs and misbranded, the Missouri court ordered the seized products to be destroyed and ordered Girod to stop manufacturing and selling products unless their labeling and advertisement met FDA regulations. The judge also authorized inspections of Girod's Kentucky facility to ensure compliance with the order [4]. However, Girod continued selling the products and, in November 2013, prevented two FDA consumer safety officers from doing an inspection.

The Criminal Case

In 2015, Girod was indicted for illegal marketing and failing to cooperate with FDA enforcement officials [5]. In 2014, Girod had notified the FDA and the Missouri U.S. Attorney's office that he had set up Satterfield Naturals as a private membership association, would market products only to its members, and should no longer be within the jurisdiction of the FDA [6,7]. In 2015, he warned the FDA and Missouri U.S. Attorney's office that "any interference with our private association activities may result in a Federal civil and Constitutional Rights lawsuit" against any individuals who interfered [8]. However, during the criminal proceedings, the court ruled that Girod's theories about "private membership" protection were not viable and granted the prosecutors' motion to prevent them from being asserted at trial [9-10]. In January 2017, the court ordered Girod into custody because he had failed to show up for court hearings over a five-month period [11]. In February 2017, the failure to show up was added to the list of charges. After a three-day trial, during most of which he acted as his own attorney, the jury convicted him of all 13 charges. He has appealed the conviction, but I do not believe he will be successful.  

Products labeled "Private Members Only"

Supporters are portraying Girod's prosecution as government overreach. In a TV interview after Girod was sentenced, one said: "All this is an innocent naive Amish farmer making a living." During the trial, the prosecutors said that "Girod doesn't recognize rules that aren't his own" and "had brought the charges on himself." [12] I believe that the prosecutors were correct.

Related Articles

References

  1. Judgment. U.S.A. v Samuel Girod. Case No 5:15-CR-87-S-DCR-1, July 3, 2017.
  2. Thornton H. WKYT investigation: Amish farmer in jail awaiting trial, facing time in federal prison. WKYT-TV, Jan 26, 2017.
  3. First amended complaint for forfeiture in rem and for condemnation and permanent injunction. U.S.A vs. 1,149 four ounce round metal tins, more or less, of an article of drug, labeled in part "Chickweed Healing Salve" "usage: good for skin disorders" "made by: S.A.E.G..", et al. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Western Division. Case No. 12-00362-CV-W-GAF, filed Sept 28, 2012.
  4. Amended order. U.S.A vs. 1,149 four ounce round metal tins, more or less, of an article of drug, labeled in part "Chickweed Healing Salve" "usage: good for skin disorders" "made by: S.A.E.G..", et al. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Western Division. Case No. 12-00362-CV-W-GAF, filed Sept 17, 2013.
  5. Indictment. U.S.A. v. Samuel A. Girod. U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky. Case No. 5:15-cr-00087-DCR-REW, filed Oct 1, 2015.
  6. Girod S. Notice of Satterfield Naturals to sell and market products to private members only in the private domain. Letter to FDA officials, Feb 13, 2014.
  7. Girod S. Letter to Curt Bohling and FDA. Feb 21, 2014.
  8. Girod S. Illegal harassment and intimidation of the Private Health Membership Association members. Letter to FDA and Missouri U.S. Attorney's Office, Sept 8, 2015.
  9. United States motion in limine to exclude private membership association defense. U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky. Case No. 5:15-cr-00087-DCR-REW, filed June 22, 2016.
  10. Memorandum opinion and order. U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky. Case No. 5:15-cr-00087-DCR-REW, filed July 26, 2016.
  11. Bond violation proceeding. U.S.A. v. Samuel A. Girod. U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky. Case No. 5:15-cr-00087-DCR-REW, filed Jan 13, 2017.
  12. Convicted Amish farmer sentenced to six years in prison. WKYT-TV, June 30, 2017.

This article was posted on July 10, 2017.

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