LAWRENCE — Gladys Araceli Ceron was just 16 years old when she left her family in the Dominican Republic to attend medical school in Venezuela. In her 20s, after graduating, completing a residency and working in rural communities, she opened a medical office in Venezuela specializing in gynecology and aesthetics, according to court papers.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Ceron, now 73, was sentenced to two years in federal prison followed by two years probation, for illegally performing silicone injections which injured and disfigured her clients over a 15-year period in Lawrence. Despite her background, the North Andover woman is not licensed as a doctor in the United States and “displayed fake certificates designed to deceive her victims,” according to court records.
“For 15 years, Ms. Ceron chose to make money by injecting her cosmetics customers with toxic silicone — all the while knowing that by doing so she was exposing them to serious harm, disfiguration and potentially death,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell.
From 2004 to 2019, Ceron operated her business in Lawrence where she performed “illegal bodily injections using gluteal material” from a source in Florida. Lab tests of the material, seized during an investigation, showed the material was “silicone oil,” a substance that can travel through blood vessels and trigger strokes, permanent disfigurement and death, according to court papers.
In 2018, during an investigation of her Lawrence business, Ceron agreed to perform buttock enhancing and facial injections for $500 and $60 respectively. A month later, a search of Ceron’s business “resulted in the seizure of several bottles and syringes of a substance that tests revealed to be a silicone oil,” according to court papers.
Numerous, uncapped syringes were also recovered from the business, according to authorities.
Ceron pleaded guilty to five federal counts of five counts of delivery for pay of an adulterated or misbranded medical device, received in interstate commerce, with intent to defraud or mislead.
“She is ashamed, humiliated and sincerely remorseful for her actions that bring her to this day. Ms. Ceron never intended to harm anyone and the fact that her actions injured some people pains her everyday,” wrote her defense attorney, Stylianus Sinnis, in a sentencing memorandum.
Sinnis noted Ceron performed countless medical procedures in Venezuela. Then, in 1995, she came to the United States with her three children for “a brighter future in a country that would offer them the opportunity to have a better life.”
She and her three children are all American citizens now. Her children have all graduated from college and work full-time, Sinnis wrote.
In letters of support submitted to the court, Ceron is described as kind-hearted, honest, loyal and respectful. Sinnis asked she be sentenced to time served and two years of probation with the first four months to be served on home confinement.
Prosecutors though asked for 37 months in prison, writing in court papers Ceron “preyed on a vulnerable population and injected hundreds or thousands of victims with toxic, free flowing, silicone and other misbranded medical devices, which sickened her victims, permanently disfigured them, and could, according to the Food and Drug Administration, even lead to death.”
“She did so in unsanitary conditions where uncapped needles, blood-tinged vials, unlabeled bottles of silicone, and other paraphernalia of her illicit cosmetic business were strewn about. She targeted lower-income, victims of color, in the greater Merrimack Valley, and she told them she was injecting them with hyaluronic acid, and that it was safe,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Hemani wrote in her sentencing memorandum.
Hanging on the wall in Ceron’s attic workspace in Lawrence was a framed plaque from a Boston medical school for “Gladys Ceron, M.D., purportedly showing that Ceron had completed a continuing medical education course that the medical school has no record of her completing,” Hemani wrote.
After Ceron was arrested, Hemani said several victims contacted investigators and said they suffered serious health consquences and deformities due to Ceron’s treatments. Doctors have refused to treat these patients for fear “of dislodging the silicone and causing further injury. Even years later, these women remain at risk for grave, and even life-threatening complications,” she wrote.
Hemani described Ceron’s actions as “nothing short of horrific” and said she preyed upon her victims’ insecurities “to line her own pockets.”
“While there is no reason to believe this defendant will recidivate, her conduct demands a substantial penalty to deter others, like the defendant, who are continuing to operate these shadowy, illegal, cosmetic injection businesses in Massachusetts and across the country,” Hemani wrote.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.