Dietary supplement marketers who disguised radio infomercials as educational talk shows and used fake endorsements to sell pills to improve memory and relieve joint pain were ordered to pay $6.57 million to settle charges waged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Maine’s attorney general. All but $556,000 of the $6.57 million was suspended due to the defendants’ financial condition, the FTC said.
The FTC and Maine’s AG accused the defendants of violating the FTC Act, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and Maine’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. Defendants listed in the complaint include Ronald Jahner, Brazos Minshew, XXL Impressions and its owner Jeffrey R. Powlowsky, J2 Response LLP and its executives Justin Burmann and Justine Steinle, and Synergixx LLC and its owner Charlie R. Fusco.
The settlements resolve charges against all defendants except Synergic, Fusco and Jahner. Defendants are also barred from making similar deceptive claims about health products in the future. Powlowsky and XXL were also banned from marketing food, dietary supplements or drugs for 20 years, but Powlowsky can maintain his manufacturing brokering business. Minshew is also barred from acting as an expert endorser unless he provides scientific evidence to back up his claims.
According to the complaint, the defendants peddled a dietary supplement called CogniPrin, which they claimed could reverse mental degradation by 12 years, improve memory by 44 percent, begin to fix memory in as little as three weeks, and is clinically proven to help memory. The defendants also promoted FlexiPrin as a treatment for joint and back pain, inflammation and stiffness that the defendants claimed could work within two hours to rebuild damaged joints and cartilage, and reduce morning joint stiffness, and that the product was clinically proven to reduce the need for medication in 80 percent of users.
The defendants primarily promoted the products through 30-minute radio advertisements produced to sound like talk shows. Jahner and Minshew were featured as so-called experts to talk in favor of the products. The FTC pointed out that defendant Minshew, who is also known as Samuel Brant, isn’t a neurology or brain science expert as he claimed in the ads.
The complaint also alleged that XXL, J2 and their officers told customers that they could try CogniPrin for free for 30 days, but didn’t inform them that in order to receive the free pills they must first enroll in an auto-ship program and agree to have their credit cards charged monthly.
“This scheme misled people into thinking they were getting medically proven products to improve their memory and joint health,” Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills said in a statement. “The defendants’ products appealed to vulnerable populations who had memory issues and pain and who were taken advantage of by fine print that was not fully disclosed.”