Bryan Cohen Apr. 19, 2011, 2:00am
CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced on Tuesday that her office has sued a Chicago-area man for alleged fraudulent marketing of acai berry dieting schemes online and fraudulent business practices.
Madigan filed the suit against Ishmael Lopez Jr. of Sauk Village, Ill., in Cook County Circuit Court. Madigan alleges that Lopez operates websites that feature fake news advocating for acai berry diet products, bodybuilding supplements, teeth whitening agents and other products.
"Consumers across the country visit these fake marketing sites that are carefully - and illegally - disguised to represent professional news organizations, only to wind up unknowingly debited for extra diet products," Madigan said. "These Internet con artists are profiting from their purposely deceptive marketing ploys."
The lawsuit alleges that when consumers click on links from Lopez's sites, which include thecnnews.org, cnnewsa6.com and newsline07.com, they are transferred to other websites to sign up for "free" trial product offers. The suit alleges that consumers, upon signing up, are automatically enrolled in a subscription that charges them for additional products unless the consumer cancels with a 14 day period. Consumers were allegedly not notified of the cancellation requirement.
Madigan alleges that Lopez's fake new reports did not disclose that he profited in promoting the products and touted deceptive benefits of the products, including statements that some acai berry products would result in a 12- to 30-pound weight loss in four weeks without exercise or diet.
The lawsuit seeks restitution for consumers who have unresolved complaints and a civil penalty of $50,000, along with additional penalties of $50,000 for each violation found to be committed with the intent to defraud, as well as $10,000 per violation found to be committed against a person 65 years of age or older.
The suit is part of a national crackdown with the Federal Trade Commission against affiliate marketers that allegedly con consumers into purchasing weight loss products through phony news websites.