38 Years in Prison for Botched Boob Jobs: Bogus Tucson Doctor Almost Killed Patient

Investigators found liposuction needles inside NuTec International in Tucson during a 2013 search warrant.
Investigators found liposuction needles inside NuTec International in Tucson during a 2013 search warrant. Courtesy of DEA
A Tucson man who posed as a cosmetic surgeon, and was so bad at it he nearly killed a liposuction patient in a warehouse, will get 38 years in prison to study medicine, law, or religion.

The work of Gustavo Felix Nunez, 54, sent one patient to the ICU in a coma, state prosecutors say. Two others went to the ER, and one needed reconstructive surgery to repair the damage to her breasts.

click to enlarge Gustavo Felix Nunez - COURTESY OF ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE
Gustavo Felix Nunez
Courtesy of Arizona Attorney General's Office
Nunez pleaded guilty to 28 felony charges and had faced a minimum of 13 years behind bars, Arizona Attorney General spokeswoman Mia Garcia said.

He was sentenced to significantly more on Tuesday.

“Gustavo Nunez victimized unsuspecting women and violated the public’s trust. Justice has been served," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a prepared statement.

The case, involving 70 offenses for performing liposuction on nine women between 2012 and 2014, capped a three-month investigation by DEA and the Tucson and South Tucson police.

"Gustavo Nunez represents the worst type of criminal. One who preyed upon women in our communities and most certainly deserves the sentence handed to him today,” said Doug Coleman, Special Agent in Charge of DEA in Arizona, in a prepared statement.

Nunez was arrested in August 2013, released, continued to perform operations with no training, and was re-arrested the following year.

According to his plea deal, Nunez charged the women a total of $23,760 to treat them at his NuTec International clinic, which is an industrial warehouse. When DEA agents searched the place, they found liposuction needles, a cabinet full of Lidocaine, and fridges stuffed with what the feds called “controlled substances.”

Those included Halcion and Valium, the DEA said in a press release at the time.

“Nunez wore scrubs when meeting with potential patients and fashioned his office to look like a doctor’s office,” according to the plea agreement filed in Pima County Superior Court.

DEA agents found several refrigerators filled with prohibited drugs inside NuTec in Tucson. - COURTESY OF DEA
DEA agents found several refrigerators filled with prohibited drugs inside NuTec in Tucson.
Courtesy of DEA
There is no record Nunez was ever licensed to practice medicine in Arizona. 

NuTec shows up online in the Yellow Pages as a medical supply place, and on an unofficial Facebook page not related to the company. A number of review sites list it, but none has any actual reviews. There is no Better Business Bureau listing. Nunez did file papers to incorporate NuTec International LLC in 2007.

On June 27, 2014, Nunez performed liposuction on Brenda Lucero in his home, according to court records, and Nunez’ confession in court.

The woman “suffered from Lidocaine toxicity,” the plea deal said, adding, “The result of the Lidocaine toxicity was that Brenda Lucero stopped breathing and began seizing.”

Nunez lacked the proper training, experience, or equipment to deal with the mishap. Instead, he decided not to call an ambulance, waiting an hour before taking her to the ER.

This “contributed to the lack of oxygen that led to the anoxic brain damage to Brenda Lucero. Brenda Lucero spent six weeks in a coma because of this procedure performed by Nunez,” court records said.

As a result, the plea deal concluded, “Lucero has limited use of her body and cannot perform daily tasks including eating, bathing, going to the bathroom, and other simple tasks. Brenda Lucero will never regain the ability to perform these tasks on her own.”

Garcia described her condition as “permanent stroke-like conditions.”

Two of the other women also went to the hospital.

Nunez left Monica Gallardo’s breasts so badly infected that she had to go to Tucson Medical Center to have them surgically drained of the discharge. She could have died, the prosecutor said. As it was, she needed multiple surgeries to correct the disfigurement Nunez caused.

Nunez admitted to aggravated assault, practicing medicine without a license, fraud, and conspiracy, among other charges.

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Sean Holstege is the editor of Phoenix New Times. He's been a print news reporter for 35 years. He was an investigative reporter at The Arizona Republic and the Oakland Tribune. He won a Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting. He’s covered transportation, terrorism, the border, disasters, child welfare, courts, and breaking news.
Contact: Sean Holstege