GAINESVILLE, Ga. - A controversial mold expert in Gainesville lost his attempt to sue his landlord who he blamed for allegedly making his family sick.
The FOX 5 I-Team began investigating complaints earlier this year against author Michael Pugliese and the Alpharetta clinic he once operated. Former employees and former patients filed complaints with the Georgia Medical Board and state regulators claiming the special system Pugliese and his clinic promotes to help people overcome mold exposure was actually making them sicker.
Among other things, Pugliese and his National Treatment Centers for Environmental Disease called for "bowel evacuation"... eating "white rice and canned chicken white meat for 3 days"... and avoiding all dairy... all sugar.. all gluten grains... all beans.
"You felt like vomiting all the time," Arizona resident Sherri Higgins told us. "When you called to tell them that, they would say well, stay to it. It's just detoxing."
The Centers for Disease Control investigated Pugliese's protocol and determined it had "no scientific evidence of being beneficial" and actually has "the potential to cause harm." Yet patients around the country traveled to Georgia to meet Pugliese, using their insurance or paying thousands of dollars out of pocket. Since our original investigation aired, the Alpharetta clinic closed.
"I feel like I've been ripped off," complained Dawn Cresi of Arizona. "I was told I was going to come out of there and be healed."
Patients said Pugliese claimed to be a doctor. He denied doing anything wrong.
"Why don't you be a listener instead of a loser?" Pugliese asked when we tried asking him questions outside the Hall County Courthouse. "You're just a loser destroying people's lives!"
Perhaps we just caught Pugliese and his companion Deborah Mechwart on a really bad day. The judge had just thrown out their lawsuit on a technicality. The lawsuit claimed mold inside the house they were renting had sickened their family.
Or maybe they just don't like the FOX 5 I-Team.
"You don't investigate," yelled Pugliese. "You don't ask questions. You're not a journalist."
When we tried asking him about all those upset patients, Pugliese had this answer:
"I think if you gave away gold bars people would bitch that they're too heavy."
He said he had thousands of happy customers around the world, and the former employees who have come forward were disgruntled and not to be believed.
But his former landlord said the one to not believe is Pugliese.
"I was a widow," explained Moira Fowler. "I was on my own. I was very vulnerable. He wanted my house."
She said the so-called world-renowned mold expert tried to bully her into selling the 10,000 square foot Lake Lanier home on the cheap, claiming it had mold. When she refused, Pugliese emailed that she wouldn't be able to sell it to anyone else because "I'm pretty sure Grand Marina Circle will be known to all as the Mold House."
Sure enough a posting showed up later on the consumer website Ripoff Report - it listed Fowler's Grand Marina Circle address and called "The Mold House" "unsellable"... "unrentable..." Even though later tenants had no health issues, Fowler was unable to sell her home. Google the address. You get "The Mold House."
So is Pugliese responsible?
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he told us.
Three years ago, Pugliese decided to represent himself, he and his companion suing Ms. Fowler in a Hall County complaint riddled with bad spelling and poor punctuation. The judge dismissed the lawsuit because Pugliese failed to properly serve the papers to his landlord. She now lives in Ireland.
We pressed him.
"You're not answering my question Michael."
"You know I did answer it."
"So did you post that on Ripoff Report? Yes or no?"
"You know Randy, you're the investigator. You find out."
Ok. We investigated. And here's what we found. The email used by the person who made that Ripoff Report post is connected to a website domain created by someone who happened to have the name...