Illegal ‘Butt Lift’ Injection Leads to Death, and a Manslaughter Charge

She had been arrested twice before, charged with providing illegal silicone injections in the Bronx to women who wanted to enhance their figures.

One client had texted Whalesca Castillo after a procedure, complaining of leaking blood and liquid from her buttocks and legs, court documents said. Ms. Castillo replied by suggesting her favorite method for stanching a wound: “Buy some crazy glue and put it on.”

Ms. Castillo pleaded guilty in September 2011 to charges related to operating a fly-by-night plastic surgery clinic without a medical license, and served a year in federal prison. Released on probation, she was caught doing silicone enhancement procedures again in March 2014 and was sent back to prison for nine months.

On Wednesday morning, detectives arrested Ms. Castillo again, this time on a state charge of manslaughter linked to the death of Lesbia Ayala.

Ms. Ayala, 48, died on June 17 of an embolism after the police say Ms. Castillo pumped silicone into her buttocks and thighs. Ms. Ayala had traveled from her home in Philadelphia to Ms. Castillo’s apartment on Seward Avenue for the illegal procedure.

Ms. Castillo could not be reached for comment on Wednesday because she was being held in jail pending an arraignment. Her lawyer, Robert Osuna, said he had not yet read the criminal complaint and could not comment on it. “We’ll have to see what the charges allege,” he said.

Buttock enhancement surgery, known as a “Brazilian butt lift,” has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, driven in part by the allure of famously curvy pop-culture figures like Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj, plastic surgeons say.

Cardi B, the former exotic dancer turned hip-hop superstar, told GQ Magazine last year that she received silicone injections in her buttocks and thighs for $800 from an underground medical clinic in Queens. The injections, she said, were performed without painkillers and leaked for almost a week.

In New York City, the authorities have seen a surge in illegal clinics catering to women who want to change their shapes but might not be able to afford a licensed plastic surgeon. The procedures can be fatal, as silicone injected directly into tissues in the legs can be carried by veins to the heart and lungs.

Injecting silicone for cosmetic purposes has been illegal since the 1960s because of the risk of deformities, scarring and embolisms. Surgeons today generally use fat taken from other parts of the body, or implants.

In 2017, Latesha Bynum, 44, died after receiving injections inside a Gramercy Park apartment, where a cash-only plastic surgery clinic operated. The police arrested Kevin Richardson and Allison Spence in connection with her death. Mr. Richardson pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter; Ms. Spence is awaiting trial.

In 2013, 22-year-old Tamara Blaine died after receiving silicone injections at the Liberty Motel in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Tamira Mobley, a self-described beautician, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, admitting she caused Ms. Blaine’s death.

Plastic surgeons report there has been a steep rise in requests for buttocks augmentation in recent years, with double-digit increases. There were 18,489 buttocks augmentations performed by licensed doctors in the United States in 2016, up 26 percent from the year before, and 2,999 buttocks implants, an 18 percent increase, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Ms. Castillo, 44, was taken into custody at her home Wednesday morning and is expected to appear on Thursday in Bronx Criminal Court. She was charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and the unauthorized practice of a profession.

Court papers from Ms. Castillo’s federal case in 2011 offer a glimpse into how her underground plastic surgery clinics functioned. She received hundreds of bottles of silicone gel shipped in the mail from the Dominican Republic, marked in Spanish as “silicone for hair” or “for body massage.”

Appointments were arranged by telephone, and clients received injections at the various Bronx houses where Ms. Castillo operated, court papers said. She casually disposed of medical waste, including used needles, bottles of silicone and tubes of glue, on the sidewalk.

When her patients complained of pain or bleeding, Ms. Castillo would discourage them from seeking medical treatment, according to a 2012 sentencing memorandum. The prosecutors found numerous photographs on Ms. Castillo’s telephone of women on treatment tables who had received as many as a dozen shots in each buttock, placing them in constant danger of a blocked artery from loosened silicone, the memorandum said.

“It must be noted that the fluids are injected directly into human tissue,” prosecutors wrote. “Unlike silicone gel implants, which are extracted when they leak, silicone injected directly into tissue cannot be removed and therefore represents a long-term hazard.”

The business was lucrative: Ms. Castillo charged $1,500 for each procedure. Federal authorities noted in the sentencing memorandum that Ms. Castillo owned two vehicles, a nail salon and three Bronx properties worth a combined $1.4 million.

In 2012, Ms. Castillo also pleaded guilty in state court to third-degree grand larceny for falsely claiming $30,000 in welfare benefits from the city Human Resources Administration.

“In short, this defendant has shown little respect for the law,” the memorandum said.

Susan Beachy contributed research.

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