MILL CREEK — The Federal Trade Commission sought a court injunction Tuesday against a Mill Creek man and nine others across the United States who they allege created fake news sites to entice consumers to buy acai berry weight loss products.
In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle,
regulators are asking that Tanner G. Vaughn of Mill Creek be ordered to stop the ads and that the court freeze his assets.
Similar suits have been filed in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Georgia.
The suit says Vaughn does business as Lead Expose Inc. and Uptown Media Inc., selling supplements such as “Slim Acai” and “Acai Lipo” as well as colon cleansing products “through websites deceptively designed to look like news reports, including sites using the domain names BreakingNewsAtG.com and Channel9NewsReport.com.”
It notes that the sites use the heading “news alerts” and include the names and logos of major television networks and newspapers.
“Defendant sites purport to provide objective investigative reports authored by a reporter typically pictured on the sites,” the complaint alleges. “The supposed authors of the reports claim to have personally tested or researched the products or services and to have experienced dramatic and/or positive results.”
The complaint says the people in the fake reports aren’t reporters and are paid to promote the products. The websites either don’t disclose the facts or do so in small print at the bottom of the web page, according to the lawsuit.
In addition to the fake sites, Vaughn is accused of making deceptive claims in the ads.
“For example, defendant has claimed that the Acai Berry Products, alone or in combination with the Colon Cleanse Products, causes rapid and substantial weight loss,” the claim alleges. It states the products “do not cause rapid and substantial weight loss….”
The suit alleges the fake sites violate the FTC act through false and unsubstantiated product claims, misrepresentation and failures to disclose.