HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Attorney General George Jepsen and the Federal Trade Commission announced a lawsuit on Thursday against three Branford-based companies over Internet marketing and sales practices that allegedly violated federal and state law.

The lawsuit names LeanSpa LLC, NutraSlim LLC and NutraSlim U.K. Ltd., all based in Branford, and Boris Mizhen of Guilford, individually and as the corporate officer or owner of the three companies. The companies and Mizhen allegedly used deceptive and unfair practices to advertise, market and sell dietary supplements, purported to be weight-loss and colon cleanse products, over the Internet.

The products are marketed under various brand names, which include but are not limited to LeanSpa, LeanSpa with Acai, LeanSpa with HCA, LeanSpa Cleanse, NutraSlim, NutraSlim with HCA, QuickDetox and SlimFuel.

The lawsuit seeks consumer refunds, disgorgement of any money the companies obtained illegally and undetermined civil penalties. While the case is pending, a federal judge in Hartford has frozen the assets of the companies, put those assets under the control of a temporary receiver, stayed other pending legal actions and halted the alleged deceptive practices, including collecting on customer accounts.

"Left unchecked, unfair and deceptive trade practices can cause substantial injury to consumers," Jepsen said. "We are pleased to take action to address these alleged practices.

Jepsen joined the lawsuit on behalf of the state Department of Consumer Protection, which received 145 complaints about the companies between September 2010 and July.

The deceptive and unfair practices alleged by the lawsuit include:

-That the companies used fake news websites and consumer testimonials to promote their products;

-Offered customers a "free" trial if they paid for shipping and handling, but then used the debit or credit card information supplied to charge consumers for the free trial;

-Billed consumers for unauthorized charges after enrolling them into "negative option" purchase plans;

-Failed to clearly disclose onerous preconditions for order refunds and cancellations; and

-Failed to provide refunds.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 7, alleges that these and other company practices violate the federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act and Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The state and the FTC estimate that the companies have taken in more than $25 million from U.S. consumers and were responsible for more than 1,000 complaints made to the state, the FTC and the Better Business Bureau.

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