Sovereign Citizen, M.D.
Nov. 11, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — An accused fake doctor apparently wants out of jail because he isn’t getting the medical help he needs:
He is accused of running a surgical house of horrors. Rick Van Thiel, the local man known as Dr. Rick, begged a judge Monday to let him out of jail.
Van Thiel is charged with practicing medicine without a license. He said he will be dead before his next hearing.
With his bail reduced to $500,000 from $1 million, Van Thiel said he’s stuck behind bars. He wants out. Prosecutors said there are three deaths and 90 victims associated with his case.
“Have I done anything here worth killing me over?” Van Thiel asked Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez Monday morning inside a courtroom.
Van Thiel is accused of performing medical procedures out of a trailer behind his home. He asked Gonzalez to let him out of jail before he is dead.
“I have a big problem here. I’m not going to survive in that jail very much longer,” he explained.
Van Thiel argued he is not getting the medical treatment he needs behind bars. He said he suffers from Morgellons disease, a skin disorder.
“It’s vital for my own survival and if you leave me in here until December, I’m not going to be here in December,” said Van Thiel.
Van Thiel claimed he could do it all, including tooth extractions and abortions. He even said he could cure cancer.
It’s hard to know where to start with this too-bizarre-to-be-real story. Is the most notable part the unbelievable irony of a guy allegedly responsible for three deaths due to his quackery demanding better medical care? His question about whether he’s done anything worth killing him over is pretty silly if he did in fact kill three people and victimize about ninety in all. That rhetorical question becomes pretty answerable, actually. If the government is going to be in the business of killing people, what more would it take to justify it than someone pretending to be a doctor, then killing the patients who put their lives in his hands?
Or is the most notable part the fact his supposed disorder, Morgellon’s disease, is pretty universally regarded among real doctors as a type of delusional infestation, the sort of thing those real doctors treat with antipsychotics rather than anything designed to help real physical symptoms? That the fake doctor is demanding treatment for his own fake disease is pretty amusing.
For me, however, the most amazing part of the story is the fact he found victims. His promises that he could do tooth extractions and abortions and even cure cancer might seem plausible enough from a seemingly real doctor claiming to be qualified to do those things. It would be a horrible betrayal of trust for an actual physician to prey on patients by promising the impossible, but the potential for that is within the realm of logical possibility. People do love false hope, after all. In Dr. Rick’s case, though, it’s hard to believe anyone fell for his scam given the circumstances:
A Las Vegas man now behind bars for running an illegal medical facility out of a trailer. Rick Van Thiel says he does it because he loves people.
Like I said, I can see how a con artist doctor at a real hospital could scam people into questionable procedures. I can see how someone who looks the part and has some decent looking office space might run a medical services con too. What’s harder to understand is people seeing a guy in a trailer promising things no doctor ever would and thinking to themselves, “hmm, maybe I should ignore all those medical professionals in fancy hospitals and do what this guy in a trailer suggests.”
Van Thiel says he’s been studying medicine now for nearly 30 years but doesn’t have an actual degree. In a video, the FBI says Van Thiel posted to YouTube, Van Thiel is seen getting ready to remove a cyst from someone’s back.
“So Rick are you a surgeon? No, but I played one once in a movie,” Van Thiel said in the video. “Where did you learn to remove a sac? On YouTube of course.”
When News 3 asked Van Thiel about learning medicine on YouTube, he said he’s learned from several books and videos but maintains that YouTube was his primary source for that procedure on video.
“You don’t watch one, you watch like 20 or 25 like I do,” Van Thiel said. “Pretty close to anything you want to learn you can learn it off YouTube for free.”
It bet Dr. Rick would be a real hit with the online marketing folks. Perhaps they could partner with him to offer “25 YouTube Videos to Become an Expert” courses for wannabe fake doctors. After all, any schlub can watch one video. Dr. Rick watched dozens. That’s good enough for surgery, right? There were some books too. Never let your lack of actual skill and experience get in the way of making a living, right? Dr. Rick’s business model looks pretty close to that of a lot of online marketers
The FBI says websites Van Thiel operated claim cures for most STDs and cancer at unbeatable prices.
I bet he’d have had twice as many patients if the various internet marketing folks who call my office every single day had done his marketing. Combining impossible promises and a slick website with killer SEO is an unbeatable combination, after all. That’s what they tell me.
Although Dr. Rick had promises to spare, his actual solutions leave something to be desired, however.
“How can you say you can cure these diseases?” News 3 reporter Sergio Avila asked.
“I just do. What I find it hard to believe is people believe they’re not curable,” Van Thiel responded.
“Tell me how you cure cancer,” Avila asked.
“Well, in one interview I don’t think I can teach you everything about curing cancer but their’s [sic] hundreds of cures for cancer out there,” Van Thiel said.
Van Thiel says he uses ozone therapy as one way to cure cancer. A doctor News 3 spoke to says there’s not enough evidence to say this type of alternative medicine does anything to benefit patients.
If you’re beginning to think there might be something wrong with Dr. Rick, you might get a few more hints based on his political views.
Van Thiel does not deny these medical procedures, instead he says they happened between two consenting adults.
“I work by private contract. This is not a public deal, this is not a deal between me you and the government this is just a deal between you and me. The courts actually have no jurisdiction over that,” Van Thiel said.
If it sounds a little off, it’s because it is. Most drug dealers work by private contract too, after all. It’s a deal between them and their customer. It’s not a deal with the government at all, yet people are charged, convicted, and sentenced all over the country for it every single day. The same is true of prostitution and countless other crimes. Dr. Rick may not think the courts have jurisdiction over it, but the cops, prosecutors, and courts think they do. And the jails and prisons are more than happy to do what they say, something Dr. Rick has already found out.
So why on earth would he think all of these crazy things?
Rick Van Thiel’s political ideology is now playing out hand-in-hand with his medical crimes.
He is a Sovereign, a person who does not believe in laws or the authority of the federal government and federal agents. It is a belief system that thrust Van Thiel into the center of two of the region’s most notorious events. Rick Van Theil spent Easter on the Bundy Ranch, supporting rancher Cliven Bundy’s fight over federal land with the Bureau of Land Management.
His name also appears in police reports for an alleged crime to kill a police officer. That is according to a lengthy, rambling YouTube video denouncing his role in the scheme. In 2013 David Brutsche and Devon Newman were arrested for plotting to arrest and execute a police officer. Both were involved in a group of Sovereigns and Brutsche allegedly told the undercover officers “Rick is a great resource for Sovereigns.” Brutsche was sentenced to probation after the two most serious charges in the case were dropped.
Newman was also a patient of Van Theil.
On his website, Van Theil offered “Sovereign Babies” delivering children in his trailer without a birth certificate. Telling parents that when the child is 18 they would have the choice to be a “free being or to become a slave.”
You don’t have to be a criminal defense lawyer for long before sovereign-citizen folks begin contacting you. They are typically the world’s most unfailing optimists, absolutely certain of the validity of their views even as their friends go to prison one by one for the consequences of the same views. They see things as black and white. Their friends, who have been reliably convicted for decades because everyone else disagrees with their legal theories, are political prisoners. They’re sure that one day we will all see they’re right. They believe they’ll forever be remembered as true patriots for not paying their taxes, refusing to get social security numbers, or whatever new cause du jour dominates the movement at any given time. I doubt Dr. Rick and his friends are any different.
There’s one other common feature with these folks too, and that’s their tendency to represent themselves. Dr. Rick is staying true to form there also:
Van Thiel also told News 3 he is representing himself in this case because he says no one knows his case better than he does.
Dr. Rick isn’t going to have an easy time with his case, and he isn’t doing himself any favors acting as his own lawyer. Unfortunately, his case is just one aspect of a big, cohesive package. His self-representation is just part of that.
Not only is he a member of a fringe political movement, but its member are often inclined to buy into conspiracies. They were ideally suited to disregard what real doctors say and buy into the fraudulent medical scam of one of their own. That’s probably the only reason why anyone fell for it. Now, Dr. Rick sees the case against him as a violation of his rights as a sovereign. Every lawyer he talks to probably accurately tells him his arguments are going to fail, but due to the strength of his beliefs, he distrusts them.
My guess is that Dr. Rick is going to go away for a very long time. On the bright side, though, he’s unlikely to ever admit defeat. He’s sure he’s right, after all. His friends are likely to think the exact same thing, and the cycle will probably continue.