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Terry Goddard Settles Deceptive Advertising Suit for $175,000

(Phoenix, Ariz. – Dec. 8, 2009) Attorney General Terry Goddard today announced a $175,000 settlement resolving a consumer fraud lawsuit against the owners and operators of Amir & Sanchez Nutraceuticals, a Tucson-based company.

The lawsuit alleges that Larby Amirouche, 20, and Robert Thomas Norton, 22, violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act by using deceptive advertising techniques.

According to court documents, the defendants used the Internet to advertise “14-day risk-free” trial offers of various “nutritional supplements,” purportedly for only a nominal cost for shipping and handling. The defendants failed to adequately disclose to consumers material terms and conditions that rendered the trial offers far from “risk-free” and resulted in significant, unauthorized charges to consumers.

Documents also state that the defendants failed to adequately disclose to consumers who ordered a “risk-free trial offer” that unless they canceled within the “14-day trial period” they would be charged full price for the product, plus additional shipping and handling, and would automatically receive subsequent monthly shipments of the product.

The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants falsely represented that consumers could cancel by simply calling a toll-free telephone number, when frequently consumers could not get through to a customer service representative or were put on hold for long periods of time and sometimes disconnected.  Court documents state that many consumers were told that their cancellation request could not be processed due to technical problems or were led to believe that their cancellation request was processed only to be charged for more unauthorized orders.

Additionally, documents state that the defendants deceptively enrolled consumers into “21-day free memberships” of diet consultation programs that required the consumer to take affirmative action to avoid subsequent monthly charges.

The settlement calls for the defendants to pay $140,000 in civil penalties, $15,000 in costs and fees and $20,000 in restitution.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Cherie Howe, and the lawsuit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.

This is the second nutrition supplement fraud case the Attorney General’s Office has settled in recent months. In June 2009, Goddard announced a record $1,375,000 settlement with Central Coast Nutraceuticals, Inc. and its Phoenix owner for allegedly defrauding customers purchasing nutritional supplements.

If you believe that you have been a victim of nutrition supplement fraud or other fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at 602.542.5763, in Tucson at 520.628.6504 or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro area at 1.800.352.8431.  To file a complaint in person, the Attorney General’s Office has satellite offices throughout Arizona with volunteers available to help.  Locations and hours are posted on the Attorney General’s Web site, www.azag.gov.  An online complaint form is also posted on the Attorney General’s Web site.