Rhode Island-based Sellers of Herbal ProductsHeld in Contempt
A U.S. district court judge has held Daniel Chapter One, an herbal products company located in Portsmouth, R.I., and its officers, James and Patricia Feijo, in civil contempt of court for violating the terms of a preliminary injunction order, the Justice Department announced today.
In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged Daniel Chapter One and James Feijo with making deceptive claims that shark cartilage and certain other herbal formulations prevent, treat, and cure cancer, and lessen the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. The lawsuit was part of Operation False Cures, a law enforcement sweep conducted by the FTC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Competition Bureau Canada aimed at peddlers of phony cancer remedies.
Following an administrative hearing and appeal, in January 2010 the FTC ordered defendants to send a letter notifying purchasers that the FTC had found the advertising claims for the products deceptive because they were unsubstantiated. The FTC further ordered defendants to stop making health claims about their products unless the claims were substantiated by scientific evidence.
Defendants refused to comply with the FTC’s Order. At the FTC’s request, the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch sued Daniel Chapter One and James Feijo in federal district court seeking civil penalties for the violations of the FTC’s order and a court order requiring compliance with the FTC order The District Court entered a preliminary injunction requiring defendants to comply with the FTC Order.
Nevertheless, Daniel Chapter One, James Feijo, and his wife, Patricia Feijo, continued to tell consumers that their products could treat and cure cancer, and refused to send the corrective notice to past purchasers. The United States then sought civil contempt sanctions against the defendants.
Following a hearing on May 9, 2012, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that clear and convincing evidence demonstrated that Daniel Chapter One, James Feijo, and Patricia Feijo were violating the preliminary injunction through statements on their radio show, statements on their websites, and by failing to send the corrective notice.
The court has provided the defendants with two weeks to remove the offending statements from their websites, send the corrective notice, and make a sufficient representation to the court that they will cease making the offending statements on their radio show. If they fail to do so, they will begin accruing fines and face imprisonment for their contempt of court.
“Those who make unsubstantiated claims that their products can cure cancer are taking advantage of extremely vulnerable Americans,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “In today’s online world, it can be hard to identify where the truth ends and the scam begins. The Department of Justice is committed to protecting consumers from bogus cancer cures.”
Marketers of phony cancer treatments tend to use tactics like the following:
• Claiming that the same treatment will work for everybody and every type of cancer;
• Advising customers to avoid surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and other conventional treatments;
• Using customer testimonials to “prove” the effectiveness of the treatment;
• Offering “miracle” treatments for serious illnesses;
• Discrediting scientific studies, the Food and Drug Administration, and doctors.
Additional information on how to spot a scam or bogus cancer cure is available on the Federal Trade Commission’s website at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/curious/index.shtml. The corrective notice defendants must send their customers states that it is important for consumers to talk to their doctor or health care provider before deciding to take any herbal product instead of taking cancer treatments that have been scientifically proven to be safe and effective in humans.