A father, son and their two Yorba Linda companies suffered some recent setbacks in Orange County Superior Court, where they are fighting charges of illegally selling hundreds of fetal tissue products for profit and treating human parts as commodities.
A judge on Friday overruled an attempt by defendants Estefano Isaías Sr. and Estefano Isaías Jr. to be dismissed from the case filed against them by the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
The OCDA in October filed a complaint that alleges DaVinci Biosciences and DV Biologics have engaged in unfair, unlawful and fraudulent business practices. The action seeks to stop the Isaías’ companies from selling fetal tissue and cells, make them pay restitution to those harmed (to be determined at trial) and to pay any other civil penalties a court imposes, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas previously announced at a press conference.
The DA insisted at the time that the case is not about abortion but businesses and their owners allegedly breaking the law.
The judge ruled against a demurrer or written response to the OCDA complaint that claimed the allegations against the Isaíases were ambiguous and too unspecific to substantiate legal action against them as individuals.
Additionally, the judge denied a motion filed by all defendants—who include the two companies, the father and son, another son, Andres Isaías, and a nephew, Luis Isaías—to strike an allegation in the complaint that claims DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences were operating as a forfeited corporation.
The complaint alleges the California Franchise Tax Board forfeited DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences’ powers, rights, and privileges in November 2014 and July 2015, respectively, due to failure to pay the required taxes and fees to transact business in the state.
David Daleiden, founder of the Irvine-based anti-abortion group Center of Medical Progress, created controversial undercover videos that connected DaVinci Biosciences, DV Biologics and Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties in March 2016. At the press conference that following October, Rackauckas said there was no evidence to support Daleiden’s claim that the companies exchanged money with Planned Parenthood or that Planned Parenthood did anything unlawful.
State and federal law prevents selling or profiting off of bodily tissues, but in 2009 DaVinci Biosciences started selling products derived from the cells and tissues they were collecting, processing, storing and using for research purposes, and DV Biologics began marketing the revenue-generating services, according to the DA’s complaint.
The two companies advertised prices: as low as $40 a vial for the “total RNA” [ribonucleic acid] cells from several fetal tissue sources to as high as $1,100 a vial for specific cells derived from fetal brain tissue; from $300 to $375 a vial for fetal lung derived products; $300-$450 a vial for fetal kidney derived products; $500-$700 a vial for fetal heart derived products; and $250-$700 a vial for fetal liver derived products, the OCDA alleges.
Between 2009 and 2011, the companies nearly tripled sales revenues and by the end of 2011 they unlawfully sold fetal-derived tissues and cells harvested in the U.S. to Japan, China, Singapore, Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Australia, Netherlands, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to the complaint, which adds that by 2012, they had more than 500 products in their inventory that they valued at more than $4.4 million.
The Orange County case against the two companies became a presidential campaign issue when political conservatives and anti-abortion activists connected the Isaías family to Hillary Clinton, who is, of course, a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to choose. Various members of the family—which is based mostly in Miami, Florida, but originally hails from Ecuador—have lavished Clinton with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
Before the Democrat’s stunning defeat in November, the Clinton foes pointed to a 2014 New York Times story that reported while she was Secretary of State, her State Department requested lifting a ban on Luis Isaías’ sister Estefanía entering the country. She had been barred from coming to the U.S. after being caught fraudulently obtaining visas for her maids.
Roberto Isaías, Luis and Estefania’s father, and their uncle William are fugitives from justice in their home country, whose government blames them for the collapse of their bank Filanbanco, which had for many years been the country’s leading banking institution. It collapsed after it was nationalized in 2001, something the government blames on the Isaíases and vice versa.
While in the U.S., the family has diversified into real estate, bioscience and telecommunications. Having owned television networks in Ecuador (that the government also eventually took over), Isaíases now own Miami-based Wreal LLC, which counts among its companies Fyre TV. In 2009, then-CEO Estefano Isaías Jr. envisioned Fyre TV would become “the Netflix of porn.” Can a title about being screwed by a prosecutor be far behind?
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.