A man awaiting trial on charges he performed liposuction procedures without a medical license was back in court for a preliminary hearing on Thursday after prosecutors said he continued to perform the procedure while his case was pending.
Gustavo Nuñez, 51, previously faced charges of possession of dangerous drugs and practicing medicine without a license stemming from an August 2013 arrest. He now has a new set of charges in connection with a June incident that has left a woman hospitalized.
He was charged with aggravated assault and four new counts of practicing medicine without a license in the new case.
A former employee of Nuñez’s clinic and medical equipment business, Elizabeth Capotosti, testified at the hearing in Pima County Justice Court before Judge Keith Bee, saying Nuñez made a frantic call to her home in June.
“He said, ‘She’s having a seizure,’” Capotosti said.
She explained that Nuñez was at his house in the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort, where he had performed a liposuction procedure on Brenda Lucero.
Capotosti, who had previously worked as nurse, said she rushed from her home in Vail to see what had occurred.
“She was on a table in the bathroom and she was seizing,” Capotosti said of Lucero.
Capotosti said she pleaded with Nuñez to call 911, but he refused out of fear he would get in more trouble.
“He said, ‘I’m doing this for my life; I’m doing this for our lives,” she said.
Capotosti said Lucero had turned blue and continued to have seizures while she and Nuñez carried her to his car. Nuñez then drove Lucero to Northwest Hospital on North La Cholla Boulevard where he had her admitted.
A friend of Lucero, Maria Arroyos, testified Nuñez called her while en route to the hospital pleading with her to meet him there.
“He didn’t want anyone to know he had dropped her off at the hospital,” Arroyos said.
She testified she met Nuñez at the hospital and remained with Lucero, who police reports say had fallen into a coma. Lucero remains in the hospital.
Arroyos said she told Lucero’s family that Nuñez had performed the liposuction that day and had driven Lucero to the hospital.
She testified Nuñez had performed liposuction on both she and Lucero previously, and that Lucero wanted to lose additional weight before attending a quinceañera.
Arroyos said Lucero had lost 35 pounds in the two months leading up to the most recent liposuction with Nuñez. Capotosti said Lucero told her she had been taking diet pills to aid her weight loss.
Nuñez’s defense attorney, Michael Carrillo, asked Arroyos if his client had ever represented himself as a doctor or surgeon.
Arroyos said he never specifically said he was a doctor, but he told her he routinely performed liposuction procedures.
“He said that he performed the procedure all the time and that he taught doctors how to do it,” Arroyos said.
Nuñez is not a doctor, but did train as a medical assistant. He also previously worked at a clinic where liposuction was done.
He and girlfriend Ilda Garcia were arrested last year after a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into his clinic, called NuTec, in an industrial warehouse at 1656 N. 15th Ave.
Garcia worked at the clinic and was present during Lucero’s treatment in June. She was charged with aggravated assault, hindering prosecution and practicing medicine without a license. Both Nuñez and Garcia remain in the Pima County Jail.
Assistant Arizona Attorney General Joshua Moser and Special Assistant Attorney General Jordan Emerson are handling the prosecution.