Oprah, Rachel Ray Acai Diet Pill Scam – FTC Cracking Down on Internet Scams

by Shannon on August 31, 2010

Falsely proclaiming celebrity endorsements from Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray, an Arizona based Central Coast Nutraceuticals Inc is now being sued by the Federal Trade Commission.

The company is being accused of cashing in with an Internet scam by luring  customers to provide credit card information in exchange for a supposedly free trial of acai berry weight loss pills, but instead, they customers were receiving monthly shipments (and charges of up to $65) that they did not want.  When they attempted to cancel the shipments by phone they received messages stating the number was not accepting calls, leading to over 28,000 complaints to law enforcement officials and the Better Business Bureau since 2007.

According to the FTC , the company milked up to $100 million from their customers, a staggering amount that prompted the FTC to file a lawsuit against the company.  A federal judge has ordered someone else to take over the company’s books and ordered the two executives, Graham D. Gibson and Michael A McKenzy, to appear in a Chicago court.

The defendants claimed that their products (AcaiPure and Colopure) are able to prevent cancer and promote weight loss, using online ads claiming the herbal supplements can actually break down toxins and remove them from the body even if they have been there for years.  But, in actuality, the pills are not able to do any of those things and might even be harmful if taken long term.

Our expert tells us that these pills were nothing but a laxative,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

In fact, Vladeck says that it is not even clear if any acai berry was even included in the supplements.  What is clear, however, is that neither Rachel Ray nor Oprah Winfrey have endorsed these products and both submitted statements to the court saying they did not.

I did not approve or agree to the use of my name or my image on this website,” Rachael Ray said in her statement in addition to her denial of the endorsement of the acai berry products.

Oprah’s company, HarpO, filed her statement for her, but it said much the same as Rachael Ray’s.

Ms. Oprah Winfrey has never endorsed any acai berry supplement or acai berry related product by name,” the statement reads.

There is still no word as to whether or not further criminal charges will be pressed, but it is nonetheless a hard lesson learned for consumers not to
trust that a product is legitimate just because the company says that it is supported by one or several celebrities–lest they fall victim to scams.

Even Kelly Ripa has said that she has been used as a false endorsement for a weight loss product.  It is best to conduct further research about a celebrity endorsed product before purchasing it.  A lot of times the product or information about it can be found on the celebrity’s personal website.

(Just to note:  when I searched for the company’s many website links that the BBB provides, they are no longer working.  Apparently they court was able to remove the scams, but it unfortunately it probably will not be long before several more diet scams emerge on the Internet.)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen January 19, 2011 at 11:03 am

since paying postage and packaging for this product in August last year I have had fraudulant access to my bank account. It took 3 months to stop this from happening, now in December another fraudulant access was made by an american company I feel maybe linked to the above company or the above company has passed on my information. I do believe this to be another scam as I dont think may people will report it.

On my bank statement there is payments made in american dollars to http://www.blowjoblusting.com If anyone has been caught by the same company please speak up… I'm sure they will get away with millions as people will feel embarassed talking to there bank.

I have never felt so embarassed especially when the fraud department has told me that a subscription has been set up, so there for I must have or someone I know has given my card details. I am having a hard time proving I did not nor did I give permission to anyone to use my card. I am absolutely sure that this is linked to the above company and would like to advise anyone who has been caught up in this scam to keep an eye on their bank account statements.

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Lori February 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

They got me too!! What do I do??

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