Botox clients bailing on tabs – Spas Pay First then relax and enjoy

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The woman, who looked to be in her 30s, wanted the same thing most of the Phoenix medical spa‘s customers wanted: no more wrinkles.

There was Botox, Juvéderm, Restylane. The wrinkles were smoothed. She even sprang for an eyebrow tattoo.

The bill was $2,644, common for such procedures.

But when the spa manager questioned her credit card, the woman screamed at him.

She said she was going to call police. Instead, the manager did. The woman ran outside and vanished.

Call her a “Botox Bandit,” part of a small but remarkable crime wave.

These bandits order thousands of dollars of face-firming injections, then bolt without paying their sizable bills.

Across the country, spas report similar stories.

In the Valley: The $2,644 theft was in January, at Radiance MedSpa on Camelback Road in Phoenix. Another Radiance location had already been hit – by the Valley’s top Botox Bandit.

Sandra Foster, 43, hit five medical spas and a doctor’s office from 2003 to 2006, according to a court record. In a 2006 plea deal, she was placed on two years’ probation, sentenced to three days in a Maricopa County jail and ordered to pay $7,335 in restitution, the cost of the stolen services.

In each case, she used a fake name. After the treatments, she left her purse and jacket inside the spa, saying she was going outside to get her wallet. When she didn’t return, spa employees found her purse stuffed with paper.

After the media published her spa photographs, Foster was arrested on March 31, 2006, two weeks after receiving $1,400 worth of Botox and Restylane treatments at CosMediSpa at Scottsdale Fashion Square.

In Tampa: Photos taken at a medical spa also led to the arrest earlier this year of a 30-year-old woman. She reportedly left a medical spa after receiving $850 in Botox treatments. She told spa staff she was going out to her car and left without paying, according to news reports.

In Houston: An unidentified woman walked out of a medical spa without paying $2,600 for Botox injections and skin products on Feb. 20, according to news reports. The woman said she was going outside to get her American Express card. She never returned. Her spa photos were turned over to police. Argentina Vasquez, a receptionist at the Institute of Anti-Aging Medicine and Skin Spa in Houston, said Monday that the woman hadn’t been arrested.

Wrinkles in investigations

It is difficult to say how many medical spas have been hit by Botox Bandits. Some may not be reported by spa owners.

Detective Stacie Derge, a Phoenix police spokeswoman, said such thefts are categorized as thefts by fraud.

Medical spas may open themselves to theft because they don’t ask for payment up-front. The cost isn’t settled until clients choose from a menu of services including hair removal, face peels or newly plumped lips.

“Clients come in for a consultation,” said David Hiers, manager of the Radiance MedSpa on Camelback Road.

“We talk about what they want and then start the procedures.”

Dr. Richard Johnson, owner and medical director of the Camelback Road Radiance spa, said clients used to go to doctors offices for lip-plumping, face peels and other treatments that don’t require surgery.

But as more and more people began yearning for a younger look, treatments were moved out of doctors offices into spalike settings, Johnson said.

Bonni Bostian, 43, of Scottsdale, said she began going to a doctor’s office for face peels about eight years ago. On her 40th birthday, she treated herself to Botox injections at the Radiance spa.

‘The ambience’

“It seemed as if I was getting a lot more for my money,” she said, adding that she likes “the ambience.”

“You can get a massage, book a peel, Botox and reflexology all at the same time,” Bostian said.

Meanwhile, Foster, who stole services from six anti-aging operations, admits she was seduced by the youth craze, court records say.

The self-employed jeweler at first paid for her injections. But when her money ran out, she ran out on the bill.

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