A Joplin, Missouri dietary supplement manufacturer is facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to felony fraud in federal court.
Jeff Hicks, owner of JT Naturals, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri for misrepresenting ingredients in his dietary supplements his company made and sold to several retail outlets in Florida, New York, California and Oklahoma. Hicks also admitted to lying about conducting tests for potentially dangerous ingredients in the supplements when he actually did not.
Hicks was released on a personal recognizance bond. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In 2016, JT Naturals was inspected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which led to an investigation. The agency said the sterility of the company’s products was in question after inspectors at the plant found possible contaminants including insulation hanging out of the ceiling above production lines, and fans with dirt and dust on the blades blowing on open trays of finished supplements. The company later moved to another location.
Hicks was also ordered by Jasper County Circuit Court to pay the city of Joplin $135,000 for breaching a 2016 contract lawsuit filed against Kodiak Sports, another company he operated. That lawsuit involves a loan Kodiak Sports received from the city and from Community Development Block Grant in 2010, as an economic development incentive. The company had reportedly planned to make paint balls and nutritional supplement capsules since the process to make both items was similar, he said.