Bryan Cohen Jan. 9, 2014, 3:31pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced a settlement on Tuesday with three Branford-based weight loss marketing companies to resolve allegations of deceptive and unfair internet marketing and sales practices.

Connecticut and the Federal Trade Commission filed a joint lawsuit in 2011 against NutraSlim LLC, LeanSpa LLC, NutraSlim U.K. Ltd. and Boris Mizhen, the companies' owner, for allegedly using deceptive practices to advertise, market and sell dietary supplements. Mizhen's spouse, Angelina Strano, was named as a relief defendant in the lawsuit.

The companies' allegedly deceptive practices included using fake news websites and testimonials, offering free trials but using shipping and handling payment information to charge for the trial, billing unauthorized charges, failing to disclose preconditions for refunds and cancellations and failing to provide refunds.

"My office reviewed approximately 1,278 consumer complaints not just from Connecticut, but around the country, and the unfair and deceptive conduct alleged in those complaints was simply unacceptable," Jepsen said. "While the defendants have submitted affidavits and tax returns demonstrating their inability to pay the full judgment, this settlement ensures that substantial assets they do possess will go toward making whole those consumers who were harmed."

Under the terms of a proposed settlement, the state and the FTC would be awarded $32,725,453, though the judgment would be partly suspended because of evidence that the defendants would not be able to pay the full amount. It is anticipated that the sale of Mizhen and Strano's assets could yield as much as $7 million in relief.

"This settlement also includes significant safeguards to prevent these companies from engaging in such conduct in the future," Jepsen said. "I'm pleased that our partnership with the Federal Trade Commission has brought us to this positive resolution. Consumers must be on guard against scams and phony marketing, which have proliferated on the Internet. This resolution sends a strong message that internet fraudsters operating out of Connecticut do so at considerable risk."

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