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Press Release

Sacramento Man Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison for Selling Fertilizer as a Fat-Burning Pill

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Scott Edward Cavell, 36, of Sacramento, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez to three years in prison for causing misbranded drugs to be introduced into interstate commerce, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

U.S. Attorney Scott stated: “Cavell thought he could trick regulators. He was wrong. It’s past time for him to learn that we will ensure that these types of schemes are stopped to keep the community safe.”

“Drugs that are produced and distributed outside of the FDA’s oversight present the prospect of harm to consumer health,” said Special Agent in Charge Lisa L. Malinowski, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Los Angeles Field Office. “The FDA will continue to work to prevent the illegal online sales of dangerous, unapproved drugs and we’re committed to protecting consumers from criminals who put profits above the health and safety of the U.S. public.”

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) will continue to identify, investigate and bring to justice individuals, like Cavell, who traffic unsafe products into the hands of American consumers that could cause serious and irreversible harm,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (San Francisco and Northern California). “Individuals who choose to circumvent drug regulations should continue looking over their shoulders. HSI and our law enforcement partners are committed to uncovering even the most secret of schemes.”

San Francisco Division Inspector in Charge Rafael Nunez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated, “Postal Inspectors have worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners in law enforcement in operations just like this one to keep dangerous drugs out of the communities we serve.”

According to court documents, between 2015 and 2017, Cavell, with others, developed a scheme to market and sell a drug, 2,4-Dinitrophenol (also known as DNP), as a weight loss drug and “fat burner” despite knowing that DNP is not approved by the FDA as a substance for human consumption. Cavell sold DNP in pill form and called it a fertilizer — a term under which is it legally sold in other circumstances.

Cavell admitted that he controlled websites that marketed the drug as a supplement while at the same time discouraging its use. He proceeded to sell DNP pills on another website,, for the purpose of misleading U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulators.

DNP has been commercially used to manufacture dyes and wood preservatives, as a fertilizer, and as a pesticide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared that DNP is too toxic to be used for human consumption under any circumstances.

According to court documents, Cavell collected at least $763,000 for compounding cheap fertilizer into pills for human consumption.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hemesath prosecuted the case.

Updated May 28, 2019

Consumer Protection
Press Release Number: 2:19-cr-033-JAM