Justice Dept. brings federal charges in investigation into dietary supplement deception

WASHINGTON – A Dallas company that had been ordered to recall a dietary supplement pill because of links to liver damage has been indicted along with several of its executives on charges that they intentionally misbranded their products, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The indictment accuses USPlabs LLC of importing chemicals from China and then lying about the nature and source of those ingredients through misleading marketing labels, part of a pattern of deception that prosecutors say was designed to get products on store shelves regardless of safety risks and satisfy consumer demand.

“They falsified labeling and marketing materials to convince consumers, who prized natural ingredients, to buy their products,” said Benjamin Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s civil division. “All of these people — regulators, retailers and consumers — trusted that the defendants were telling the truth about their products. All of these people were deceived.”

The Food and Drug Administration in 2013 directed the company to recall OxyElite Pro, a supplement used for weight loss and muscle-building, after the product was linked to liver damage. The company told the FDA that it would stop distributing the supplement, but instead engaged in a “surreptitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to sell as much OxyElite Pro as it could as quickly as possible.”

The indictment also charges four company executives and a consultant as well as S.K. Laboratories, an Anaheim, California, firm that prosecutors say manufactured products for USPlabs, and one of its executives.

Four of the six individuals who were charged were arrested Tuesday, and the two others were expected to turn themselves in.

Online court records didn’t list attorneys for any of the defendants.

The indictment was announced as part of a yearlong nationwide sweep against makers and marketers of dietary supplements that the Justice Department said has resulted in criminal or civil cases against 117 people and entities.

The dietary supplement industry has come under scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators, who are concerned that companies are skirting rules meant to stop them from marketing their products for specific diseases and conditions. In June, for instance, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri sent a letter to more than a dozen companies asking executives to explain how they vet dietary supplements and weed out products making false claims.


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