For release on January 28, 2014
Yen Dang, Supervising Deputy District Attorney
Consumer Fraud Unit
DECEPTIVE MARKETER OF WEIGHT LOSS AIDS
ORDERED TO PAY $1.8 MILLION
Settling a lawsuit brought by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office and nine other prosecutors’ offices, an Ohio-based direct mail marketer will pay about $1.8 million in penalties and restitution for illegally using false marketing claims to sell unsubstantiated health aids.
As part of the agreement, Benjamin Suarez, along with his company Suarez Corporation Industries (SCI), is prohibited from marketing and selling nutritional supplements and other devices in violation of California’s consumer safety laws.
The prohibited products include “AbGone,” “Slim and Cleanse Complete” and “Colon Health Complete.” Suarez advertised the latter product as able to improve the immune system and to help rid the body of toxins, ease headaches, constipation, gas, parasite infections, excess weight and bad breath. More than 13,000 of the $29 to $49 kits were sold in California.
“Let the buyer beware, especially when it comes to products that promise major health benefits,” Prosecutor Yen Dang said. “As prosecutors, we will be vigilant about people who try to trick consumers out of their money with unsubstantiated health benefit claims.”
The civil enforcement action was filed in Alameda County Superior Court in June 2011. The complaint alleges deceptive marketing and sales of multiple unapproved drugs and devices in California between 2006 and 2010 in violation of the False Advertising Law.
The marketing and sales techniques of Suarez, and/or SCI have been the subject of numerous civil enforcement actions since at least 1978, throughout the country. In 2006, a group of California district attorneys obtained a permanent injunction against SCI arising out of the sale of AbGone, which had lead levels in excess of California’s legal requirements.
After he was sued, Suarez used a shell company to send out a mass mailer urging people to vote against the Attorney General and 10 district attorneys who took part in the most recent suit as a way to intimidate and discourage the prosecutors from investigating his deceptive business practices.