McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A South Texas beauty spa owner accused of injecting liquid silicone into clients at her salon pleaded guilty Monday at the start of her trial in federal court.
With a jury waiting in another room, Elva Navarro pleaded guilty to one count of receiving through interstate commerce an adulterated device with the intent to defraud or deceive.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez explained that Navarro, 37, of Hidalgo, was aware of complications with such injections and did not have approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the spa owner still took payment and assured clients the procedures were safe, the judge said.
Prosecutors said Navarro gave injections to a client on Oct. 5, 2013, and the woman later died from silicone poisoning.
Navarro's attorney, Terry Canales, said a medical examiner who could have testified for prosecutors about the woman who died could not have conclusively linked the fatal injection to Navarro.
"My client is not the only one accused of doing this in South Texas," Canales said outside the courthouse.
Navarro was indicted in March and could face up to three years in prison when she's sentenced in August.
Canales said he expected Navarro to be indicted on related state charges. She was initially arrested in November on a state charge of practicing medicine without a license.
Navarro ran Bella Face and Body Spa in McAllen where prosecutors said she injected clients seeking cosmetic procedures. Investigators said one client in 2012 spent more than two weeks in the hospital after receiving injections of liquid silicone.
Navarro's arrest last year was the third in a month's time for women providing similar services in the Rio Grande Valley.
At the time of her arrest, then-Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said the husband of one of Navarro's clients contacted authorities following publicity around the arrests of two others. That man's wife had spent 17 days in intensive care last year after allegedly receiving injections in her buttocks. The woman underwent a number of surgeries, Trevino said.
Navarro's ex-husband, Miguel Angel Navarro, was sentenced to 34 years in prison in April for kidnapping a local college student. Elva Navarro testified against the man at his federal trial and said she had helped him move the victim from one location to another without knowing what he was up to.
The state charged Elva Navarro with aggravated kidnapping in that case.