For subscribers: FBI investigating Long Beach woman’s death following cosmetic surgery in Tijuana

An FBI agent has interviewed family members of a woman who reportedly died in January after undergoing cosmetic surgery in Tijuana at the Art Siluette Aesthetic Surgery clinic.

The 38-year-old woman, Keuana Weaver, a mother of two, died Jan. 29 on an operating table at the cosmetic surgery clinic south of the border, according to her family. The story was first reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

An FBI spokesperson said the agency, by policy, does not confirm or deny the existence of criminal investigations. But several people involved said they had been contacted and interviewed by an FBI agent.

“I’m glad that they’re looking into it. I hope they do find a case. This is ridiculous that a woman died and he just (continues) doing surgeries,” said Renee Weaver, the mother of Keuana Weaver.

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Weaver’s mother and two other women who say they were injured at the clinic say its director, Dr. Jesús Manuel Báez López, performed the surgeries without the proper licensing to do so. Báez López has not responded to multiple requests for comment made over several months by email, phone and in person.

Americans often turn to Mexico for more affordable medical procedures and medicine. News stories abound about the risks but social media sites such as YouTube are also filled with people thrilled with their results.

The two other women said they underwent procedures at the same clinic the day of Weaver’s surgery. One of those women said she later suffered from kidney failure and the other said she was hospitalized for two weeks with internal bleeding and acute renal failure.

Marco Gámez, the director of COEPRIS, the Comisión Estatal de Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios, a state health agency, said that Báez López’s clinic remained opened and he continued performing surgeries. Gámez said he is reviewing the doctor’s files after learning about the allegedly botched surgeries last week.

Gámez said Sunday that health inspectors visited Báez López’s clinic on April 23, a day before the Union-Tribune’s first story was published. He said a representative of the business told health inspectors they had no record of any patient named Keuana Weaver being seen at the offices in Tijuana’s Las Torres towers in the Colonia Aviación.

“I know that’s not true because I’ve got the proof that he saw her,” said Renee Weaver, Keuana’s mother, in response.

The Union-Tribune provided Gámez with documents from Renee Weaver, including screenshots of communications between a Gmail account named “[email protected]” and Keuana Weaver’s phone; a prescription pad with Keuana’s name on it that included letterhead from “Dr. Jesús Manuel Báez López”; a letter stating the clinic would refund the $6,700 deposit for Keuana Weaver’s surgery; and a document signed by the former head of the state health agency showing Weaver’s body was transferred from a funeral home in Tijuana to Riverside.

Two different clinics appear to operate out of the same offices in Suite 802 on Boulevard Agua Caliente. Master Clinik and Art Siluette both advertise cosmetic surgery at that address. Master Clinik responded to health inspectors’ questions about Weaver’s death, but her family says she was communicating with Art Siluette.

When a reporter went to that address in April and asked for Dr. Báez, she was told he was on-site, but unavailable because he was in the middle of another surgery.

Gámez said he planned to investigate thoroughly. Gámez was appointed by the Baja governor in May to lead COEPRIS after David Gutiérrez Inzunza, the man who signed the document authorizing the cross-border transfer of Weaver’s body, was accused of corruption by the state secretary of health and others.

In mid-May, the secretary of health said he requested the resignation of Gutiérrez Inzunza as a result of an internal investigation. Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla later said in June that Gutiérrez Inzunza “had abused the trust that the Baja California government gave him.”

Industry leaders have questioned the level of oversight Baja state health authorities have over doctors.

State law in Baja California since 2014 has stipulated that only certified plastic surgeons can perform liposuction and a range of other cosmetic procedures such as tummy tucks and mommy makeovers.

Báez López does not list qualifications as a plastic surgeon on his website, nor does he list among his credentials having any specialty training as a surgeon that is legally necessary to practice plastic surgery. He did not respond to a request for comment.

The website states that he obtained a master’s degree in “aesthetic surgery” in 2011 from the Instituto de Estudios Superiores en Medicina, Jalapa, Veracruz. The webpage states his academic training includes a medical degree from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.

Doctors told the Union-Tribune in April that “aesthetic surgery” is not really surgery at all, but actually describes minor procedures like getting Botox.

Reached by phone, the FBI agent who has interviewed Weaver’s family said she could not answer any questions about the case and referred a reporter to the bureau’s public information officer. A spokesperson for the FBI said the agency will neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

The FBI generally does not have jurisdiction to make arrests in Mexico. “On foreign soil, FBI special agents generally do not have authority to make arrests except in certain cases where, with the consent of the host country, Congress has granted the FBI extraterritorial jurisdiction,” the FBI’s website states.

But legal experts say there are workarounds.

“The real issue becomes once they do investigate, what can they do about it?” said Gary Davidson, an international litigation and arbitration attorney at Diaz, Reus & Targ LLP in Miami.

Davidson recounted details of a similar circumstance involving a Colombian doctor who collects payments in the United States for plastic surgeries performed in Colombia.

“His bank accounts are up here (in the United States),” said Davidson. “The feds could potentially grab all of that — and make life very difficult for that individual to participate in the American banking system.”

Davidson said hopes were slim for any type of civil justice in Mexico for Weaver’s death. No lawsuits have been filed and Davidson said he is not personally involved in the case.

“People assume that when they go to a place like Mexico that the system of criminal justice and the system of civil justice is similar to the United States and that’s a big mistake,” he said. “Mexico does not have a developed system of tort law. The real tragedy in a case like this is you really have to depend on the criminal system in Mexico because the civil system is never going to come through.”