Three individuals and two companies have settled Federal Trade Commission charges over their roles in the deceptive marketing of Supreme Greens, an herbal supplement. The FTC has alleged that these defendants and others promoted the product for the prevention, treatment, and cure of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. They also touted Supreme Greens’ ability to cause substantial weight loss.
In two separate settlement agreements, Supreme Greens developer Alejandro Guerrero and his company, Health Solutions, Inc. (both of Upland, California), and Michael Howell (Fontana, California), Gregory Geremesz (Upland, California) and their company, Healthy Solutions, LLC (Upland, California), have agreed not to make false or unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits, performance, efficacy, or safety of any food, drug, or dietary supplement. Guerrero will also pay $65,000 or transfer to the Commission title to his 2004 Cadillac Escalade. Howell and Geremesz will pay $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, to the Commission.
In June 2004, the FTC filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleging that Direct Marketing Concepts, Inc., ITV Direct, Inc., and their president, Donald W. Barrett; and Alejandro Guerrero, Michael Howell, Gregory Geremesz, and their companies, Health Solutions, Inc., and Healthy Solutions, LLC, had deceptively marketed Supreme Greens. The Commission also alleged that Direct Marketing Concepts, Inc., ITV Direct, Inc., and Donald W. Barrett; and Allen Stern and his companies, Triad ML Marketing, Inc. and King Media, Inc., had deceptively marketed Coral Calcium Daily. The Commission subsequently amended its complaint to name Robert Maihos as an additional liability defendant, and Lisa Stern, Steven Ritchey, and BP International, Inc. as relief defendants. (The litigation continues against all of the defendants other than Guerrero, Howell, Geremesz, and their companies.)
The original Supreme Greens infomercial ran on cable television (including the Outdoor Channel and the PAX Television network), beginning in August 2003. In that infomercial, Guerrero and host Donald Barrett claimed the product can prevent, treat, and cure cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. They also touted Supreme Greens as causing substantial weight loss, and claimed that the product was safe for use by pregnant women, children – including those as young as one year old – and any person taking any type of medication.
The settlements announced today prohibit Guerrero, Health Solutions, Inc., Howell, Geremesz, and Healthy Solutions, LLC from making the types of claims alleged in the FTC’s complaint for Supreme Greens or any substantially similar product. The orders also prohibit them from misrepresenting that any dietary supplement can prevent, treat, or cure any disease, or that Guerrero is a medical doctor, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, or Ph.D. In addition, the orders enjoin them from making false or unsubstantiated health benefit, performance, efficacy, or safety claims for any food, drug, or dietary supplement. Finally, the orders prohibit these five defendants from misrepresenting the existence, contents, validity, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any test or study, in connection with the marketing or sale of any food, drug, or dietary supplement.
The Guerrero/Health Solutions, Inc. order provides for judgment in the amount of $65,000 in favor of the Commission. That judgment can be satisfied either by a payment of that amount to the Commission, or by Guerrero transferring to the Commission free and unencumbered title to his 2004 Cadillac Escalade. The order also contains a $1.47 million avalanche clause, which will become due immediately if the court finds that Guerrero or Health Solutions, Inc. misrepresented their financial condition. The order also requires them to notify current and future dietary supplement distributors, resellers, and sales agents of the settlement, and to stop doing business with them if they use any of the promotional materials prohibited by the order.
The Howell/Geremesz/Healthy Solutions, LLC order provides for judgment against Howell in the amount of $5,000, and against Geremesz in the amount of $10,000. This order also contains a $2.7 million avalanche clause and a distributor notification provision. Finally, both orders contain various record-keeping requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance with the orders.
The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the Guerrero/Health Solutions, Inc. stipulated final order was 5-0; the vote authorizing staff to file the Howell/Geremesz/Healthy Solutions, LLC stipulated final order was also 5-0. Both orders were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and they were entered by the Court on September 28, 2005, and September 29, 2005, respectively.
NOTE: These stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated final orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the stipulated final order are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC Matter No. X040052)
(Civil Action No. 04-CV-11136-GAO)