By Sue Pascoe
Stephanie Smith, a Pacific Palisades resident, was busted on December 13 for operating an allegedly illegal marijuana-growing operation in San Bernardino.
According to KTLA, police issued a search warrant for Smith at her home near the Asilomar Bluffs and she was detained there.
The case received national media attention, with headline writers calling the attractive 43-year-old a “queenpin.” CBS News reporters said police reported that “the huge operation is normally associated with a drug lord” and “Smith was making millions of dollars per month running the operation.”
The operation was centered in San Bernardino and involved more than 24,000 plants (18,000 pounds of marijuana) and eight people working in an otherwise empty building.
Officials received a tip about the operation several months ago when the supposedly empty building had an electric bill of $67,000 per month. According to CBS, “The investigation revealed a major operation with employees, guards, gates and no building permit.” Another news source said there was a 12-foot metal rolling fence, fortified doors, a large concrete wall around the parking lot and surveillance cameras. Inside there were heat lamps and an advanced irrigation system.
If misdemeanor charges are filed, Smith could face jail time and a fine.
Smith told the DailyMailTV reporter, “‘Yes of course [I’m going to get a license]. No one has a license in San Bernardino. There’s no licensing scheme available at this time.
Smith continued, “‘January 1, that’s when the laws change for the state and that’s when they begin accepting licenses. I already do it as a proper business. I already have a lot of other licenses in other jurisdictions.’
Asked if she was concerned about possible misdemeanor charges and potential jail time, she said ‘No, what for?’”
KTLA reported that Smith had paid cash for two warehouses and a home for the operation.
This was not Stephanie Smith’s first brush with the law. Her boyfriend, the former doctor, Craig Allan Bittner, first came under scrutiny in 2003.
An L.A. Times story reported that the California Medical Board and San Francisco district attorney filed a joint civil suit against his Arizona firm for allegedly using false advertising about the effectiveness of a breast cancer scan.
The Times article said, “The suit seeks to stop Dr. Craig Bittner, 36, the founder and medical director of AmeriScan, from continuing to boast in radio ads and on the internet that the firm’s ‘BreastScreen’—using a technology called magnetic resonance imaging—is nearly ‘100 percent effective’ in finding tumors and is more capable than a traditional mammogram.”
Then the radiologist changed course and started a “liposculpting” company under the name Dr. Lipo 90210, with offices in Beverly Hills.
In 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bittner fueled his car with human fat, obtained from those procedures.
Its story said there were allegations that he had allowed his unlicensed office staff, including Stephanie Darcy, aka Stephanie Smith, to perform cosmetic surgery.
In February 2008, Darcy was named in a trio of personal injury suits filed in Santa Monica in which she was accused of performing liposuction without a license.
Along with her boyfriend Bittner, she was sued for breach of contract, fraud, negligence, battery, willful misconduct and intentional infliction of emotional distress by plaintiffs Barbara Lundy, Sheila Choi and Dorie Leo.
The California Medical Board executed a criminal search warrant, signed by a state superior court judge in Bittner’s offices in Beverly Hills and Irvine, as well as the couple’s Santa Monica home in November 2008. The warrant sought information about at least 15 of Dr. Bittner’s patients and “evidence tending to show the unlicensed practice of medicine.”
Bittner pled guilty to a felony in April 2011, lost his license for five years and was required to pay restitution to his victims. Darcy also pled guilty to a felony for the unauthorized practice of medicine.
Stephanie Rachel Darcy, the mother of three (two through surrogates), legally changed her name to Stephanie Smith in Santa Monica on August 24, 2012.
The sentencing was deferred until April 22, 2013, when Smith was sentenced to 36 months’ probation after being found guilty of violating the California Business and Professions Code.
One victim wrote on an internet site:
“Refund of the original surgery fees is insulting. I have already paid almost TWICE the original fee for corrections and have at least another $10K more to go. That comes out to THREE TIMES the original cost.”
The victim continued: “The folks at Beverly Hills Liposculpture have recorded three new LLC’s (limited liability companies). Officer’s/member’s personal assets are protected from litigation. They take a salary out of the profits and are able adjust it so that the company itself has minimum assets. This can leave the company with little resources to pay damages for negligence or other compensable offenses.”
According to a December 18 Daily Mail story, Smith has registered a series of companies in California since 2015. “Among them are 10 Palmdale LLC, Carnation Enterprises LLC, 322 Clearbright LLC and Central Ave LLC—all of which are registered to a postal facility in downtown Pacific Palisades.
“No details on what the companies do are available, but Smith is also connected to a series of medical-based businesses in Arizona, including one named Advanced Liposuction Specialists LLC which was last listed as active in July 2016.”
In a 2013 Consumer Watchdog story the author wrote: “These ten dangerous doctors are some of the most egregious over-prescribers, repeat offenders, and drug and alcohol users in California. Their stories show the urgent need for action by California lawmakers to replace a Medical Board that has allowed bad doctors to continue to practice, and to raise the outdated cap on patients’ ability to hold negligent doctors accountable in court.”‘
Craig Bittner was one of the ten “poster children” and the story described him as “a Beverly Hills radiologist who performed liposuction. He allowed his assistant, who was also his girlfriend, to perform liposuction although she was not a doctor and had no formal training in the procedure. Patients began complaining as early as 2008, and at least nine women were left disfigured and in pain. Bittner did not surrender his license until 2011. In criminal prosecution, Bittner was allowed to plead guilty to just one misdemeanor count. His five-year sentence was reduced to two. He has reportedly changed his name and is now attending law school.”
Allegedly, in addition to owning two Teslas, Bittner and Smith also have homes in Pacific Palisades and Scottsdale, Arizona. They purchased the Palisades two-bedroom home in 2013 for $720,000.