Washington state’s top cop is suing a prominent Seattle-based plastic surgeon over the doctor’s alleged use of fake reviews and illegal patient non-disclosure agreements to inflate his plastic surgery businesses’ online ratings, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week.
Dr. Javad Sajan, who owns Allure Esthetic, directed his company to intimidate patients into removing negative reviews and ordered his employees to post fake positive reviews, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news release.
According to the attorney general, from 2017 to March 2022:
- Allure required patients to sign pre-service non-disclosure agreements that required them to contact the business directly with any concerns instead of writing a negative online review.
- Any review under four stars was considered a negative review.
- In an early version of the NDA, patients who refused to take down a negative review could pay “monetary damages” to Allure for any losses, and also agreed to waive their privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to allow Allure to respond to the review with patient health information.
Allure also offered patients cash or free services for taking down bad reviews, AG says:
- If a patient accepted the offer, Allure would make them sign a “post-service” NDA obligating them to remove the review and prohibiting them from posting future negative reviews with the threat of a $250,000 fine.
- More than 10,000 patients signed NDAs from 2017 to 2022, according to the lawsuit.
- As a last resort, Allure threatened to sue patients for violating the NDA’s, which state attorney’s called “unlawful,” and “unenforceable.”
Dr. Sajan posted fake reviews, bought 60,000 Instagram followers
Prosecutors also said Dr. Sajan further deceived the public about Allure’s reputation by having employees write fake positive reviews using fake online personas and email addresses, according to the lawsuit.
- From 2018 to 2021, the employees would use a virtual private network when penning the reviews to get around fake review blockers, the lawsuit said.
- On Feb.1, 2019, the follower count on Dr. Sajan’s Instagram account @realdrseattle jumped from 12,900 followers to 69,600, according to the lawsuit.
- An associate allegedly used Dr. Sajan’s PayPal to buy the roughly 60,000 followers, according to the lawsuit.
- Today, most of @realdrseattle’s 66,000 followers are fake, the lawsuit says.
Ferguson said Dr. Sajan violated the Consumer Review Fairness Act, HIPAA, and several provisions of Washington state’s Consumer Protection Act.
A request for comment to Allure Esthetic’s and Dr. Sajan’s by USA TODAY was not immediately returned Tuesday.