An Ohio-based company accused of using misleading statements to sell unapproved dietary supplements and other products has been ordered this week to pay nearly $1.8 million in penalties and restitution, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Thursday.
The payment includes $95,000 each to the ten counties, including Sonoma, that were involved in the claim, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Brockley.
The products at issue include Arthri-Zen relief cream, BeePOWER Surge, Foot Choice Infrared Heat Massager and Colon Health Complete.
The court order is part of the settlement of a civil law enforcement action brought by the California Nutritional Supplement Task Force, which includes the Sonoma County District Attorney's office and nine other district attorneys.
The enforcement action, filed in June 2011, alleged that Benjamin Suarez and his company, Suarez Corporation Industries, Inc., used false and misleading marketing claims to sell 14 unapproved products in Sonoma County and throughout the state since as early as 2006.
It's just one of numerous actions filed against Suarez and his companies since 1978, Ravitch said in a statement. Brockley added that it was Sonoma County's second settlement with the company. The first was in 2006 for $250,000.
At that time, district attorneys in Sonoma, Napa, Orange and Solano counties, plus the city of San Diego, obtained a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from making untrue statements about its dietary supplements. They allege that the company violated that injunction.
Under the latest settlement, which was signed Tuesday by an Alameda County Superior Court judge, Suarez and his company are prohibited from marketing or selling nutritional supplements and other devices in violation of California's consumer safety laws.
The money paid to counties from the settlement is to be used in future consumer protection cases, Brockley said. Most of the remaining money, $796,000, will go to consumers who bought the 14 products named in the action.
(You can reach Staff Writer Jamie Hansen at 521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter at @JamieHansen.)