These creeps were so stupid that their ads actually used the same fat lady photos as those used by the infamous Svelt Patch gang that operated for years out of Montreal by Patrice Runner and friends way back in 1996. So why did it take the FTC and the Competition Bureau in Canada so long to take action. The latest patch bandits used the FSA Group, a major fulfillment operation located in Markham, Ontario that usually caters to Fortune 100 companies. Why in the world didn't they realize that these people were up to their eyeballs in deceptive trade practices?
Questions we want answers to:
Where did they stash all their money?
Did it go to the Isle of Man or the Netherlands?
Did it go to the Caribbean?
Did it fund terrorists?
FTC Closes the Door on Offshore Scammers
The SlenderStrip and then the Hydro-Gel Slim Patch scams were marketed to hundreds of millions of people, month after month after month across North America. The yahoos from the U.K. and their agents thought that they could really get away with it because the FTC and Canadian authorities had not been able to control any of the other scam artists out there who were also marketing diet patches over the years. Heavy fines had never stopped a single scammer up until December 2003. The previous patch scamsters, even after heavy fines, just set up shop down the street, or across the ocean to rip people off another day. So, it was very surprising to us that the FTC and the Canadian Competition Bureau and additional Ontario fraud taskforces seemed to have finally gotten their act together on both sides of the border.
In December 2003 the FTC in cooperation with Canada's Competition Bureau, the Ontario Provincial Police's Anti-Rackets section, the Toronto Police Service's Fraud Squad, and numerous other authorities and agencies in Ontario, New York, Ohio, served notice to a number of people and entities. Two Canadians, Nancy Sprague, and Robert Van Velzen, were originally named as the two principals of FSA Group (No. 1024798 Ontario, Inc., The Fullfillment Solutions Advantage, Inc.). Sprague was later dropped from the FTC action because she was only responsible for renewing the MBE mailbox. Also named were International Access, Beauty Visions Worldwide, Slimshop, Hydro-Gel Slim Patch, Slenderstrip, and any other parties that assisted in marketing the products. The court order said the following that the defendents must
Hold and retain within such entity's or person's control, and prohibit the withdrawl, removal, assignment, transfer, pledge, hypothecation, encumbrance, disbursement, dissipation, conversion, sale, liquidation, or other disposal of any funds, documents, property, or other assets held by or under such entity's or person's control.
All defendents were ordered to:
Take such steps as are necessary to transfer to the territory of the United States of America all documents and assets from outside of the U.S. that relate to, or are derived from, the activities or operation of No. 1024798 Ontario, Inc., The Fullfillment Solutions Advantage, Inc.). Also named were International Access, Beauty Visions Worldwide, Slimshop, Hydro-Gel Slim Patch, Slenderstrip, Robert Van Velzen, in the sale of Hydro-Gel Slim Patch or Slenderstrip.
E-mail their Wall Street lawyer named Anthony Pirraglia, from the firm of Ford Marrin Esposito Witmeyer & Gleser, and ask him why he defended Robert Van Velzen. He says in a countersuit filed shortly after the FTC combined action that they should not be held accountable for acting on behalf of the others in this case. He said that their personal assets were not frozen, and that a Federal judge agreed in Court on December 11, 2003 that any freeze applied only to weight loss products activities that they held for their clients' customers who in fact were from the U.K.
In a brief filed with U.S. Courts, their lawyer claims that the people involved were actually Gary R. Bush, David Varley, and Laurence A. White, who own Kingstown Associates and BVW Associates. These folks were one of FSA's clients. FDA now claims that the FTC actually sued the wrong people, they should have gone after the three Englishmen. They also claim that they have NO legal responsibility to verify the truthfulness of their customer's marketing statements.
FSA's major clients include ATI Technologies, M-A-C Cosmetics, Glaxo Smith Kline and others. Kingstown "hired" FSA to provide order fulfillment services. They claim that the FTC was notified by them that they were suing the WRONG defendent, on December 8, 2003, the day before the press conference. They gave the FTC all the names and addresses of the companies and people involved in the weight loss scams (although they don't think it was a scam, and are upset at my comments on this web site).
The FACTS according to FSA's attorney
The FTC filed this action improvidently, as a result of erroneous conclusions reached as a result of an incomplete and superficial investigation, thereby mistakenly suing and misleading this Court to grant a temporary restraining order and other equitable relief against the wrong defendents, i.e. FSA. But, if one carefully parses the FTC's moving papers and ignores the rhetoric, the "fact" on which they based their motion is that FSA owned a mailbox and fulfilled orders in the same fashion as commonly occurs for businesses across the world.
Had the FTC staff examined the contents of the mail box they would have observed that the bulk of the mail received by FSA at that postal box has nothing whatsoever to do with this action. ....The continued freeze of that mail will have the deleterious consequence of irreparably harming FSA's business and that of its customers.
FSA neither manufactured nor sold nor prepared advertising for the weight loss Products, "HydroGel Slim Patch" and "Slenderstrip", that are the subjects of the FTC's action.....Rather, FSA as is an independent contractor provided fulfillment and related services to the marketers of the Products. Kingstown and BVW Associates Inc. and their three principals.
Their offices are on Wadsworth Road, Kelleythorpe Industrial Centre, Duffield Y025 9DJ United Kingdom (tel. 44 1377 2323 30). The sell the weight loss products known as "HydroGel Slim Patch" and "Slenderstrip" that are the subject of the lawsuit.
Kingstown retained FSA several years ago to provide order fulfillment and related services... FSA Group did not prepare advertising copy for Kingstown. FSA is providing services for weight loss products for other clients and promptly ceased providing services for Kingstown. ....FSA has not shared in the profits (or losses as may be applicable) of Kingstown or of BVW Associates.
The Complaint refers to various weight loss advertisements placed in newspapers and magazines. Neither Mr. van Velzen nor FSA nor its officers, directors, and employees placed the advertisements for weight loss products of Kingstown or of anyone else. FSA believes that an ad/marketing agency for Kingstown is Dori Klein & Associates, Inc. (DK Associates), 550 Sylvan Ave., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632. The agency is unrelated to FSA or its officers, directors and employees. Kingstown is a small account of FSA.
FSA maintains a postal box (#289) at 2316 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14216 which FSA uses to service order fulfillment customers generally. ....This is not an account used solely for orders being fulfilled for Kingstown. ....Last week, without prior notice to FSA, the FTC froze the mailbox. The freezing of that mail box by the plaintiff FTC threatens to cause enormous economic damage to FSA because it has blocked a substantial stream of customers' order materials for other customers of FSA, including large customers. Customers whose order fulfillment mail has been blocked include Glaxo Smith Kline, M-A-C Cosmetics and ATI Technologies, for whom FSA is currently conducting very active programs.
FSA does not manufacture weight loss products....FSA believes that the weight loss products used to fulfill Kingstown's orders are manufactured by Dermal Sciences, Inc., 1525 Kings Highway East, Fairfield, CT 06430, Pal Laboratories, 10655 NW 29th Terrace, Miami, FL 33172 and Arnet Pharmaceutical Corp., 5900 Miami Lakes Drive, Miami Lakes, FL 33014. Those companies and FSA are unrelated to each other.
Credit card payments which FSA received to fulfill orders for Kingstown's products were processed by PacNet Services Ltd. of Vancouver, Canada. PacNet and FSA are unrelated to one another.
Funds made available to FSA in connection with its services to Kingstown would arrive at (and various order fulfillment checks FSA would receive would be deposited in) an account at Royal Bank of Canada, account no. 400-3596, from which FSA would disburse funds to pay its invoices, issue refund checks and make transfers as requested by the client. ....The bank information shows the owner of the account to be BVW Associates, Inc., the corporation previously mentioned owned by Gary Bush.
The FTC omission of advertising information from the newspapers and magazines is a telling one. The Temporary Restraining Order purports to close down FSA. Such a restraint is unjustified and the order was the result of inaccurate information proviced by the FTC to the Court.
The Temporary Restraining Order has been used by the FTC to freeze postal box #289 and thereby disrups FSA's business for other customers, potentially causing FSA in excess of one million dollars in losses if the box is not unfrozen as to those customers.
The FTC IS NOT LIKELY TO SUCCEED - ACCORDING TO THE ATTORNEY
The FTC cannot prevail against FSA for a number of reasons. To begin with, as noted at the outset, the law imposes on FSA no duty to verify the truth of how its clients describe their products. FDA did not have any input or control over the content of the allegedly false advertisements. ....FSA operates essentially as an independent clerical and logistical service.
The public interest disfavors an injunction. ...As FSA did not engage in "unfair or deceptive acts or practices"...the public is not served by enjoining FSA. ....FSA's assets have been frozen, and FSA Group has been stigmatized by the incorrect imposition of the Court.
THE ASSET FREEZE IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL - ACCORDING TO THEIR ATTORNEY
By using rhetoric, perhaps throught overzealousness, that misled the Court into entering the Temporary Restraining Order containing an asset freeze, the plaintiff caused an impermissible violation of the United States Constitution. The FTC proffered no evidence to prove that weight loss product proceeds comprise the defendents' sole assets. (The FTC did not even proffer evidence makiang it probable that it sued the "right" defendent).
An asset freeze is only permissible to the extent of any equitable lien or judgement establishing the debt....In the absence of an independent, equitable lien on assets, pre-judgement asset freezes were not traditionally within the province of equitable courts and are, therefore, not proper equitable remedies.
"....FSA's order fulfillment and related services take place in Ontario, Canada, as part of ordinary commercial activity. Ownership of a mail box in the US from which UPS or MBE sort and re-forward mail to Canada does not give rise to a sufficient jurisdictional nexus to justify an asset freeze in Canada. The FTC has power to sue in Canada and should seek to freeze Canadian assets as to which the basis for exercising jurisdiction is so tenuous as to here, comity dictates that the FTC proceed in the Canadian courts.
CONCLUSION BY THEIR ATTORNEY
For the foregoing reasons, the FTC's motion for preliminary injunction and the temporary restraining order must be vacated
Dated: December 11, 2003
COUNTERCLAIM BY THEIR ATTORNEY
WHEREFORE, the answering defendants demand judgment:
Dismissing the complaint
Awarding to the answeing defendents their costs and disbursements, including legal fees and expenses of litigation:
Alternatively, and in the event that any of the answering defendants were to be found liable, then awarding to each such answering defendent judgment against the named defendents "Beauty Visions Worldwide" and "Slimshop" and the additional cross-claim defendents, jointly and severally, for the whole and/or an equitable portion thereof, whether through indemnity, contribution or otherwise:
Alternatively, in the event that the Complaint is not dismissed, declaring the rights and legal relations of the parties as requested in the Counterclaim: and
Granting such other and further relief as may be just and proper
Dated: December 11, 2003
Dr. Terry Polevoy's thoughts
Time will only tell, but I'd say that unless all of the responsible parties are prosecuted to the full letter of the laws in all countries where they do business, they will most likely reorganize and return with yet another scheme to defraud the public. And, if they don't do it, there are thousands out there who would be willing to risk it all, and take their place. As far as I am concerned the lawyers for the people who served as the receiving end of the orders, and whose client sent money back and forth on behalf of the people in the U.K. have not proved their case that they are not responsible. Their countersuit is predictable, and will probably earn the lawfirm a goodly amount for their work.
The real losers here are the hundreds of thousands of losers who have been duped by the makers of these bogus patches. Diet patches, and their products are certainly one of the worst I have ever seen, have no place in the business of weight loss. Any company who does business with people like this should be held accountable under international law. This has nothing to do with the bloody Constitution of any country.
Actions Against Marketers of Fraudulent Weight-loss Products - the following products, and companies are part of the FTC stipulations: Fulfillment Solutions Advantage, Inc., The FSA Group, International Access, Beauty Visions Worldwide, Slimshop, Hydro-Gel Slim Patch, Slenderstrip, and its principal owner, Robert Van Velzen. No mention of David Sousse or Patrice Runner here.
Robert Van Velzen - phone and address listed on the internet:
|Robert Van Velzen|
111 Fred Varley Dr
|Also listed in the FTC action is his address that belongs to someone listed now as:
7 Woodglen Way
Markham, ON L3R 3A8
We don't know if this person knows Van Velzen, or not. We are trying to find out.
Van Velzen rented various MBE mailboxes located in Buffalo, New York, under many names, including Beauty Visions Worldwide, Mac Cosmetics, Body Flux, Cable Gym, Hydro-Gel Slim Patch, and Slenderstrip.
The ads were placed in major newspapers and advertising supplements such as Smart Source across North America. FSA says that they did not place the ads and are therefore not responsible at all.
Interesting coincidence? - Dr. Ho's uses FSA location in Markham, Ontario. He's the Ontario chiropractor who has the most amazing infomercials with half-naked girls in bikinis parading around an indoor swimming pool giving testimonials for his Amazing Muscle Machine on The Shopping Channel. We don't know if he has anything to do with the company that was charged by the FTC.
Robert Van Velzen was championed by Member of Parliament from Quebec when there was a debate on Bill C-24, the postal services continuation act, 1997. Here is what this MP had to say:
"For Robert Van Velzen of S.S.A. Incorporated in Markham, Ontario they meant that he lost a half-million dollar U.S. mail sorting contract
and had to put a dozen people permanently out of work."
Avaya Inc. press release about FSA - December 2001
FSA Group Chooses New Network From Avaya To Boost Speed, Reliability of Data-Intensive Operations. Avaya’s voice, video network helps FSA drive customer satisfaction and quality service. FSA, whose clients include IKEA Canada and Mazda, manages large volumes of data transfer, such as extensive customer contact lists for its clients, and the company needed a full communications platform to support its existing business and provide the flexibility to expand networking capabilities as the company grows.
FSA is experiencing tremendous growth, and as a result, it was imperative that we install a network infrastructure that could support not only our needs, but more importantly our customers’ needs, over the long-term,” said Rob Van Velzen, owner and president, FSA Group.
The FSA Group is a direct marketing services company offering full response, data, logistics and mailing services around the corner around the world. Headquartered in Markham, Ontario, FSA Group has offices in Curacao, New York and Amsterdam. The company has over 250 employees and customers include ING Direct, Royal Bank, IKEA and Mazda. For more information, go to www.fsa-int.com.
Kingstown Associate's UK operations have been found wanting by the Advertising Standards Authority many times over the last few years. If you go to their web site and search for Kingstown Associates you will be amazed.
Pal Laboratories investigated by Congressional Committee - The Skinny Pill targeted children and provided no proof that it was safe, or that it worked.
Letter to Edita Kaye the Skinny Pill for kids promoter.
Dietfraud.com's story on the Skinny Pill for Kids
Earlier ads for patches should have set off alarm bells
Weekend newspaper coupon inserts ran hundreds of millions of these ads, perhaps even billions over the last few years. We received many complaints on this one, and we thank you for your help. The government of the U.S. and Canada have failed to prevent yet another diet patch scam. This one is real loser folks, and I don't mean it will help you lose weight. You will lose your money, and that's for sure.
There's no Chantal Legrand here, but we do see two sets of before and after pictures of Mrs. J.S. who lost 96 lbs., and Mrs. S.B. who lost 76 lbs. There are no ingredients listed for this patch.
It's "clearly better" they claim in bold headlines. I guess if you believe this, you are clearly in need of professional help.
- No dangerous drugs or unnatural chemicals!
- No starvation diets, small portions or missed meals!
- No awkward tablets or capsules to swallow!
- No impossible backbreaking exercises!
- Just fast and easy, LASTING weight loss!
At one time their product was called the Slender Strip. I wonder why they changed the name.
Click here to see a different Beauty Visions web site, but this time it's in Florida. When I called the Buffalo number above, they said that they were not in Florida, but in Buffalo. This is all very confusing. It's apparent to me that the company that operates out of a Mailboxes Etc. box number has capitalized on the Florida company's action.
Beauty Visions in Florida sells two kinds of patches. They say that they have nothing to do with the folks from Buffalo.
Aebion - Another diet patch scam that has links to the Caribbean - This one is a real classic. It's one of the first ones that we profiled on Dietfraud.com. We wonder how many banks are involved in these scams.
More Patch scams on DietFraud.com You can take action against these scam artists. Just keep us posted when you see them.