Looking for free government grants endorsed by President Obama and Vice President Biden? Dietary supplements supported by scientific research and endorsed by Oprah? How about exclusive credit offers? …Keep looking.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has halted an operation called, the “Grant Connect” program, that allegedly deceived and mislead consumers about bogus products and services with unsubstantiated claims.
The complaint lists Juliette Kimoto and Johnnie Smith, amongst others, behind the “Grant Connect” program. As part of an agreement with the FTC several defendants have agreed not to market products and serviced similar to those they sold and pitched to consumers previously. Settlements also impose an almost $30 million judgement against them.
Allegedly “Grant Connect” programs used pictures of political figures and celebrities to make it appear that they endorsed their products they were selling. They used pictures of President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the American flag to bolster claims that their bogus government grants service was affiliated with the U.S. government. They promoted their dietary supplement by falsely claiming that it was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey and supported by scientific research, and failed to adequately disclose that their credit offers were merely memberships to a costly shopping club.
The FTC claims that the defendants failed to disclose to consumers that purchased their products that they would be enrolled in continuity plans and charged high monthly fees for mostly unrelated products along with using fake testimonials to promote products.
The first settlement order announced October 17, bans defendant Johnnie Smith from marketing or selling grant-related products or services, credit-related products, work-at-home business opportunities, weight-loss related dietary supplements, and other products or services using a “negative-option” or continuity program in which consumers are billed automatically until they decide to cancel.
Smith also is banned from assisting anyone else selling these programs or products and from taking customer payments using pre-approved electronic fund transfers. Finally, Smith is banned from using testimonials to sell products or services, and is subject to the monetary judgment, under which he will pay $45,000.
The second settlement order bans Juliette Kimoto and four companies she owned from: selling grant-related products or services, credit-related products, or work-at-home business opportunities; selling products or services with a continuity or negative-option program; taking consumer payments by preauthorized electronic funds transfer; assisting others engaged in these activities; and using testimonials.
The second settlement order also bans the four companies from marketing dietary supplements claimed to assist in weight loss or other specified outcomes, and prohibits Juliette Kimoto from making misleading health claims related to dietary supplements. The order also requires Juliette Kimoto to pay more than $90,000 and to turn over various personal assets, including jewelry, a piano, and a 1967 Chevy Camaro, along with all the cash and other assets held by the entities she owned. The total value of the cash and assets turned over by Juliette Kimoto and the companies she owned exceeds $220,000 – Source.
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