Quick Take:

On Friday, the founder of Santa Cruz CORE Fitness + Rehab pleaded guilty to federal charges of distributing fake COVID-19 immunization pellets and vaccination cards. Jaimi Jansen is due for sentencing on Sept. 28.

On Friday, Jaimi Jansen, founder and CEO of Santa Cruz CORE Fitness + Rehab, pleaded guilty to charges to federal charges of distributing fake COVID-19 immunization pellets and vaccination cards in her return to a federal court in San Francisco. She faces as much as a five-year prison sentence, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Following the hearing, her attorney, Santa Cruz-based Peter Leeming, declined to comment on the charges, the implication of other CORE employees, and whether Jansen will continue to lead the business.

The case against Jansen is part of a much larger federal case, involving 21 people, including seven Californians, and alleged COVID-19-related aid fraud totaling nearly $150 million.

On April 19, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California in San Francisco charged Jansen with making false statements related to health care matters, alleging that from May 2021 into July 2021, she sold fake COVID-19 vaccination cards along with fake “immunization pellets.” It alleges that Jansen made about $14,000 in profit and received a total of $19,500, as part of a wider scheme engineered by Juli Mazi, a Napa-based naturopathic doctor, who herself has pleaded guilty to “false statements related to health care matters” and to wire fraud. Jansen allegedly functioned as a distributor for Mazi.

Mazi is awaiting sentencing in July.

Jansen, 40, founded CORE in 2009 and has served as its CEO. Both Jansen and Mazi are well-known locally.

The company, with locations on Potrero Street in Santa Cruz and Penny Lane in Watsonville, provides services that range from personal training and nutrition to acupuncture, including hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy and facial rejuvenation.

Personal trainer Danny Stevens, who most recently worked at CORE in early 2020, says the business specializes in both fitness and wellness.

“It’s a pretty even mix of fitness and wellness, but leans towards the wellness side,” he said. “People seeking corrective treatment, relief for specific ailments, and things like weight loss make up a good amount of the clients.”

Jansen had not responded by publication time to Lookout’s requests for comment on the charges, or on the implications of those charges for CORE’s ongoing business. Mike “Prem” Ellison, who is listed as CORE’s executive vice-president, has also not responded to Lookout inquiries. On the California Secretary of State’s business search site, CORE’s corporate status was listed as “suspended” as of Friday morning.

Jansen is still prominent on the CORE site, and it’s unclear whether she is currently leading the company.

Mazi, who has most recently worked in Napa, worked in Santa Cruz at Thrive Natural Medicine, a Soquel-based naturopathic medical center, beginning in 2013. Though she has practiced in Napa from September 2019 on, it’s not clear when she might have left Thrive. Her LinkedIn profile lists continuing work there.

Lookout contacted Thrive and asked for owner Irene Valencia to comment on Mazi’s work there, but received a “no comment” from the business.

The case itself is summed up in the U.S. attorney’s filing.

According to the documents, the scheme’s purpose was to “make money by claiming that homeoprophylaxis immunizations would provide immunity to COVID-19” while making it look like customers had received vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Though Jansen is the main person named in the complaint, it also points to the involvement of other CORE employees.

The filing states that around May 2021, “Jansen and employees of Santa Cruz CORE engaged in health care consultations with Dr. Juli Mazi, who offered homeoprophylaxis pellets for sale and claimed that they could provide lifelong immunity to COVID-19, and false and fraudulent CDC COVID-19 vaccination record cards, which Mazi instructed should be filled out to make it falsely appear as though the recipient had received the FDA-authorized Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, when the recipient did not.”

Further, Jansen provided Mazi’s instructions regarding the pellets and false cards, says the official complaint.

From the complaint: “Jansen provided to each customer a vial with the individual dose, the blank false and fraudulent CDC COVID-19 vaccination record cards provided by Mazi, and a printout of Mazi’s two-page instruction sheet with instructions on how to fill in the false and fraudulent CDC COVID-19 vaccination record cards to make it falsely appear as though the recipient had received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.”

The official complaint says Jansen continued to work with Mazi to coordinate appointments with the patients receiving both items and that on or around June 11, 2021, Jansen helped organize and conduct these appointments. During the appointment, “Mazi answered questions regarding COVID-19 homeoprophylaxis and completion of the false and fraudulent CDC COVID-19 vaccination record cards.”

Jansen is due for sentencing on September 28 at 10 a.m.

Max Chun is the general-assignment correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Max’s position has pulled him in many different directions, seeing him cover development, COVID, the opioid crisis, labor, courts...