Class action lawsuit filed against weight loss doctor, victims could be nationwide

TAMPA — "He had taken a huge chunk of my liver," said a victim in Montana.

"I will do everything I could to make sure he can't do this to people anymore," said another victim in California. More than a dozen others patients in America shared the same sentiment about Dr. Mario Almanza.

Now the Tijuana doctor, who describes himself as the leading gastric sleeve surgeon in the world, will have to defend himself against a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit in Arizona.

Dr. Almanza, who states on his website that he's performed more gastric sleeve procedures than any other surgeon in the world, is one of twenty defendants named in the suit filed recently by several Arizona patients.

Among them is Jessica Ballandby who traveled to Tijuana in 2014 for a gastric sleeve only to return with a cut spleen and life-long problems.

"I ended up having to have female surgery and now my thyroid is messing up," she told our sister-station KNXV recently.

We first introduced you to Jessica in 2015 when she and more than a dozen other patients across the country spoke publicly, accusing Dr. Almanza of botching their weight loss surgeries.

Kaycha Baez of Central Florida says she was sent to Dr. Almanza by Weight Loss Agents, a South Florida-based medical tourism company quick to state that they are not a medical referral agency.

Baez returned home with a hole in her stomach.

"Why wasn't this detected in Mexico?  Why do I have to deal with it at home," she told us in 2015. 

Over the course of our investigation in 2015 and 2016, we confirmed at least four Americans died after surgery with Dr. Almanza.  The doctor claims he learned about the deaths following our reports.

In an interview granted with our sister station, KGTV in San Diego, Almanza claimed unhappy patients were bribed by disgruntled employees.

This new class action lawsuit accuses Dr. Almanza and a number of Arizona-based medical businesses and a medical middleman of fraud, negligent misrepresentation and negligent supervision. Among the businesses sued include Fill Centers USA, a medical group with 40 branches nationwide. The group would help care for patients after they returned from surgery in Mexico.

Attorney Robert Gregory who is representing the Arizona patients in the class action suit believes the lawsuit could expand nationwide.

"I've spoken to potential plaintiffs in places like New Mexico, Florida, Washington, Arizona of course and California so the potential is definitely there. Patients who had these surgeries are angry at what happened to them," he said.

"I was healthier and prettier when I was bigger. I'd do anything to go back," said Jessica Ballandby.

If you believe you are a victim of weight loss surgery in Mexico and/or of Dr. Mario Almanza and would like to learn more about this class action lawsuit, contact attorney Robert Gregory of the Gregory Law Group at 480-664-0855.

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