For Immediate ReleaseJanuary 29, 2014
Ohio man loses $1.8 million in negotiation for claims in 10 California counties
San Rafael, CA -- An Ohio direct marketer agreed to settle a civil law enforcement action alleging that false and misleading marketing claims were made to sell or attempt to sell unapproved and/or misbranded food, drugs and medical devices in Marin County and throughout California.
Marin County District Attorney Edward S. Berberian announced the $1.8 million settlement Jan. 29, one day after the final judgment was signed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne S. Carvill.
Berberian and nine other district attorneys comprising the California Nutritional Supplement Task Force filed the civil enforcement action in Alameda County Superior Court in June 2011 against Benjamin D. Suarez and his company, Suarez Corporation Industries (SCI), which was also doing business as Bio Tech Research.
The complaint alleged deceptive marketing and sales of multiple unapproved or misbranded drugs and devices in California beginning as early as 2006 in violation of the False Advertising Law (Bus. & Prof. Code section 17500) and the Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200 et seq.).
The complaint further alleged that SCI and Suarez promoted and marketed purported "weight loss, health and pain control/management products to capitalize on the promise of quick pain relief, the desire for quick weight loss and appealing to the public's general health concerns" but that defendants' marketing claims were unsubstantiated, false and/or misleading.
In 2006, the district attorneys for the counties of Napa, Orange, Solano and Sonoma and the City of San Diego obtained a permanent injunction against SCI prohibiting SCI from making or disseminating to the public any statement concerning diet supplements which is untrue or misleading. It is also alleged in the present action that SCI intentionally violated the terms of the 2006 injunction.
“I am very mindful that many of our residents have engaged in modifications to their lifestyles directed toward raising and improving their general health and the health of their families and loved ones,” Berberian said. “Our residents have a right to be protected from business practices that mislead them and market products that cannot be scientifically substantiated – let the buyer beware is not a standard that we should embrace."
Under the settlement, SCI and Suarez agreed to be bound by a permanent injunction issued by the Alameda County Superior Court prohibiting them from, among other things, selling misbranded foods, drugs and/or devices; selling unapproved drugs or devices; and making or disseminating claims regarding nutritional supplements that are not scientifically substantiated. Defendants will be required to maintain records of all scientific substantiation for claims they make about their nutritional supplements.
Defendants have agreed to pay or have already paid a total of $1,796,114.50 in civil penalties ($950,000) and restitution.
Since 2006, the California Nutritional Supplement Task Force has investigated and/or filed civil actions against numerous companies and individuals who allegedly violate California law prohibiting marketing tactics like the use of unsubstantiated weight loss or disease “cure” claims and/or the sale of misbranded medical devices.
Ed BerberianDistrict AttorneyCounty of Marin
Marin County Civic Center3501 Civic Center DriveSan Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-6450