FTC Halts Global Hoodia, HGH Spam Ring

October 10, 2007

2 Min Read
FTC Halts Global Hoodia, HGH Spam Ring

WASHINGTONAt FTCs request, a federal district court judge ordered a halt to spam e-mails and health claims for certain hoodia and human growth hormone (HGH) products FTC charges are making false and unsubstantiated claims. The law enforcement action against defendants in the United States, Canada and Australia, who used an international ring of spammers to drive traffic to Web sites for the offending products, is the first brought by the agency using the U.S. SAFE WEB Act to share information with foreign partners.

The district court judge issued an ex parte temporary restraining order against the defendantsSpear Systems Inc., Bruce Parker, Lisa Kimsey and Xavier Ratelle, doing business as eHealthylife.comand ordered their assets frozen. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11 to determine whether to extend the halt to the defendants claims and the asset freeze until FTCs case is resolved. The agency seeks to permanently bar the defendants from further violations and make them forfeit their gains.

One product, called both HoodiaLife and HoodiaPlus, was claimed to contain Hoodia gordonii and cause significant weight loss. The other, called both HGHLife and HGHPlus, was touted as a natural human growth hormone enhancer, that would dramatically reverse the aging process. As evidence of the spam rings magnitude, FTC said its spam database received over 175,000 spam messages sent on behalf of the hoodia-HGH operation.

FTC charged the defendants with making health claims without evidence to support them According to the agencys complaint, the defendants falsely claimed their hoodia products cause rapid and substantial weight lossas much as 25 pounds in a monthcause users to lose safely three or more pounds per week for multiple weeks; and cause permanent weight loss. The complaint also charged the defendants falsely claimed their so-called HGH products contain growth hormone and/or would cause a clinically meaningful increase in a consumers growth hormone levels. Additional claims promised HGH products would turn back or reverse the aging process, including: reducing cellulite, improving hearing and vision, causing new hair growth, improving emotional stability, increasing muscle mass, and causing fat and weight loss.

In addition to the health claim charges, FTC alleged the operation violated the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act) by initiating commercial e-mails that contained false from addresses and deceptive subject lines, and failed to provide an opt-out link or physical postal address.

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