The former co-owner of a dietary supplement manufacturer has pleaded guilty to mail fraud after he was accused by prosecutors of shipping falsely labeled and untested supplements from his business in Missouri to customers within the United States and throughout the world.
The charge against Jeffrey Edward Hicks, prosecutors revealed, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
As the co-owner and operator of J.T. Naturals in Joplin, Missouri, Hicks routinely received imported raw materials from Argentina, Canada, China, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Peru and Sri Lanka, prosecutors said, adding the company used the ingredients to manufacture and sell finished dietary supplements.
Through J.T. Naturals, Hicks developed documents—including “Product Specification Sheets” and a “Certificate of Analysis”—that were sent to the supplement manufacturer’s customers, according to the charge against Hicks (download the charging document below).
“These documents purported to accurately identify the ingredients contained within the finished dietary supplement products, as well as identify all tests conducted by J.T. Naturals to ensure product safety,” prosecutors said in the charging document.
Prosecutors alleged Hicks was aware the documents misstated the ingredients and falsely claimed the finished products were tested to ensure safety.
Hicks was charged with causing the delivery of dietary supplements that purported to contain 1,000 milligrams of Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil and had been tested for heavy metals. However, the finished products had not been tested for the presence of heavy metals, the charging document said, and “contained materially different ingredients than what was listed.”
The Joplin Globe, which first reported on Hick’s guilty plea, said he was ordered in Jasper County Circuit Court to pay a judgment of nearly $135,000 to the city of Joplin in a breach of contract lawsuit the city filed against him and another company he operates, Kodiak Sports, in July 2016.
A federal judge has yet to accept Hicks’ guilty plea and sentence him.
Ian Lewis, an assistant federal public defender representing Hicks, did not immediately respond to a request for comment left on his voicemail. And, an FDA spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.