SensaSlim: “The cavalry is on the way”

We last left SensaSlim on July 6th, after a look at some nasty tactics and the use of Rogers Digital marketing Australian news site, to publish “news” stories about their miraculous product.

Next up came the June 21st SensaSlim newsletter, scribed by the elusive Peter O’Brien. It opened with:

Hello Everyone,

The  cavalry is on the way.

I have just been informed that SensaSlim International have arranged for two of the coordinators of the clinical trials that were conduct by the Institut De Recherche Intercontinental to travel to Australia to assist us in defending the integrity of the worldwide trials.

The Institute are treating criticism of their trails very seriously. Dr Strebel who is currently in Moscow on a project and has made contact with SensaSlim lawyers to ensure they are given every assistance through the preparation of affidavits that can be presented to the Supreme Court of New South Wales with regard to the defamation proceedings brought against Dr Ken Harvey.

They are also going to assist us with the preparation of any material that needs to be submitted to the ACCC to dispose of the allegations that the trials are not conclusive. We will also be proposing to have the trials coordinators speak with Today Tonight whilst they are in Australia and other health writers to combat this attack against us.

I have now seen affidavits that have been filed in the courts in England by SensaSlim International against Dr Matthew Capehorn. There can be no doubt in anybody’s mind upon reading the material that Dr Capehorn was given the data he required to prepare the white paper and that he was prepared to continue to stand by the white paper conditional upon being paid additional money. As I have always said the dispute with Dr Capehorn has nothing to do with the evidence of the efficacy of SensaSlim but it is all about money.

Area Managers have asked me to confirm that SensaSlim was approved to be sold as a dietary aid by the Therapeutic Good Administration based upon the ingredients and not the clinical trials. The clinical trial data was of no interest to the TGA and nor did they ask for it. All they wanted to be satisfied with was the ingredients in the product and the formulation and if based upon the science the product would be able to achieve weight loss.

Those keeping up with the saga will recognise the arrogance in the wording of this newsletter on several points. Today Tonight have started to distance themselves from SensaSlim. It was beyond ambitious to suggest research authors from the Institut De Recherche Intercontinental (IRI) would – just like the cavalry – come a-recscuin’ by submitting materials, “to the ACCC to dispose of the allegations that the trials are not conclusive.” At much the same time the ACCC had discovered the IRI was a bogus entity and that photos depicting executives – or the cavalry, if you will – were also bogus, being photos of lung specialists from St Paul Lung Clinic in Minnesota, USA. SensaSlim legal eagle Terry Harrison said at the time, the Australian arm had cobbled the deal with Dennis Thornton of Lloyds Business Brokers, on behalf of SensaSlim Suisse Ltd. According to the director of Lloyds Business, Thornton was found dead last year. Australian Skeptics have an article here, reviewing the ACCC and Ken Harvey’s position.

The ACCC had won a federal court order to freeze SensaSlim’s Australian assets, most likely on the basis of fabricated trial evidence presented on Australian TV. Certainly for engaging in ‘‘misleading and deceptive conduct’’ under the Trade Practices Act 1971. The assets are frozen until a hearing on August 31st. This is the basis of Dr. Ken Harvey’s complaint against the company. A report, not written by Harvey, about this complaint was published on auspharmacist.net.au provoking SensaSlim to sue for defamation. Making the caper even more overtly scam-worthy was the fact the same pictures of the USA doctors were published on the site of the Mountebank Clinic. The “clinic” address is an industrial estate in Bargo, NSW.

“Mountebank” means:

“a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, sleight of hand, etc… a person who deceives others especially in order to trick them out of their money… any charlatan or quack”

Charming. The clinics’ director was passed off as an “Dr. Joseph Balsamo”, with an image of singer Alberto Balsamo and the qualifications of Flindsers University academic, Adjunct Associate Professor Mary Harris. The Mountebank gig is apparently part of Reef Health who open their website blurb with the strange line, “Reef Health Pty Limited is a 100% Australian company dedicated to natural products which are not only good for you, but actually help.” Reef Health is owned by Andrew Tarter/Tatar and his girlfriend Roxanne Naylor.

That doesn’t stop Roxanne auctioning herself off for a date on this crass dating site – What’s Your Price? She’s getting good mileage from that profile picture. Tatar – or Tarter – is a struck off Sydney solicitor arrested in Vanuatu in 2007 under suspicion of helping smuggle a convicted conman from Fiji. That conman was none other than Peter Foster. Naylor and Tatar are respectively CEO and General Manager of Kava Kwik – Vanuatu Instant Kava.

There’s a wonderful little exchange about sunny Vanuatu here on the Scam.com forum from October/November 2008. A Peter Foster claims to have been conned by a Sam Grant who pushes cancer cures and sells worthless “distributorships”. Grant sells, ahem, “neutraceuticals“. A Brian Smith also suggests Grant is a conman. Grant refutes Fosters account, denying he sells distributorships and pointing out Foster is in jail. Then an “ausman123” rips into “real scammers” Andrew Tarter/Tatar and Roxanne Naylor for scamming Sam Grant:

They own reefhealth.com which WAS reselling a product of sam grants (sic) in Australia. He did this in good faith and shipped all stock without payment.Andrew & Roxanne did not pay for ANY stock even though Sam shipped the orders. When Sam asked for his money Roxanne and Andrew went and registered domain names in Australia and the UK which are the brand name of Sam Grants product and redirected them to Reefhealth.com and posted a FALSE claim about the product.

Roxanne then sent an email to Sam saying that she would be interested in selling the domain back to him. Extortion?
So lets look at the facts:
1. Roxanne and Andrew have history of scams and running scams.
2. Roxanne and Andrew did not pay for stock and pocketed the money rather than paying the bill.
3. Roxanne and Andrew then bought brand domains names and redirected them to their website which they changed and put a FALSE statment about the product to trick customers.
4. Roxanne and Andrew then began posting FALSE information on Sam Grant calling him a scammer.
5. Peter Foster is an international SCAMMER who is associated with Roxanne and Andrew. Interestingly enough he is in Jail at the moment so for him to post on an internet forum while is jail is truly amazing.

Scammers scamming scammers? Or is it just a scam? Either way after this cosy chat and the information pulled together by The Age – and also independently by a member of Support Dr. Ken Harvey – it’s entirely possible Naylor and Tatar/Tarter were “fronting” for Foster. Reef Health accused The Age of “hacking” their Mountebank Clinic website and it disappeared on the same day. The Age has admitted using an incredibly complex and particularly darstardly piece of software known in hacking circles only as… “Google”.

The next day, June 23rd saw reports of a $4.2 million class action by over 70 franchisees conned into paying up to $60,000 to buy SensaSlim stock. They also fell for the line of supposed clinical trials and substantial evidence. Slater & Gordon are working with the ACCC in a bid for compensation, which may indeed prove difficult given SensaSlim’s Australian accounts hold approximately $230,000.

With regard to Dr. Ken Harvey’s defamation case, I mentioned last time that Justice Lucy McCallum had issued consent orders on June 14th. One of which was that, “The plaintiff file an amended statement of claim on or before 1st July 2011”. Sadly for SensaSlim this did not come to pass. Following the ACCC action their lawyers, Kennedy’s Australia withdrew from the case. By June 30th John Kukulovski of Jirsch Sutherland was appointed administrator and by July 5th it was reported he was recommending liquidation. Dr. Harvey has been awarded costs although until happily reimbursed cause for celebration must wait. His lawyers will apply to have the defamation case struck off on July 11th.

The paragraph above in which Peter O’Brien notes the TGA were not interested in product efficacy is accurate and gives insight into the problems with Australia’s regulatory system. Here’s the TGA’s public summary of SensaSlim. In effect the paper tiger position of the TGA is the genesis of this entire sorry saga – and an avalanche of other scams, shams and inefficacious “remedies”. The TGA claimed in June that it cancelled SensaSlim’s advertising approvals and welcomed the ACCC investigation. Pharmainfocus.com.au reported;

“TGA has already taken regulatory action through cancelling SensaSlim’s advertising approvals. We have tested their product and although we have found it does not contain any unsafe ingredients, TGA is continuing to assess other aspects of the product,” a spokesperson said.

Which is as usual, utterly useless. The TGA should invoke Section 30 of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Act, 1989 and deregister SensaSlim from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods – certificate here. Presently the anorexic slogan Nothing tastes as good as slim feels still heads up SensaSlim’s shiny new sales and advertising website, including the absurd “lose weight while you sleep” argument. As reported in today’s Weekend Health in The Australian;

But on a newly established website the company confirms it’s proceeding against Harvey. Although the TGA assured Weekend Health in June that it had cancelled SensaSlim’s advertising approvals, the firm continues to promote its product on the new site, claiming the spray is approved by the TGA and the Health Department.

[…..]

A TGA spokesperson wasn’t able to clarify the situation as Weekend Health went to press. Harvey suggests the case highlights “fundamental flaws” in Australia’s system of regulation and promotion of complementary products. Specifically, the TGA’s lack of teeth and a distinction between “listed” and “registered” products that is unclear to the public.

Listed products are assessed by the TGA only for safety and quality, while registered products are also tested for effectiveness.

Being snobbed off is nothing new for the TGA. The article also mentions some nasty tactics recently used to bully co-complainant Dr. Lesley Campbell over her position in Harvey’s defamation case. Another problem of course is the role of pharmacists in selling the product – just one of many unproven remedies they stock. SensaSlim are also hyping up The Australian spray weightloss challenge, and use the site to boast the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods certificate.

The final balderdash to note is the “settlement” of the stunt case in which SensaSlim claimed the jockey of Black Caviar had lost too much weight. On examination it’s absurd. I opined to other’s on June 26th, when Yahoo 7 published the story that jockey’s are weighed pre and post race. Underweight jockey’s carry weights in their saddles. So Wanderson D’Avila was the correct weight and apparently magically lost 0.8kg within about 30-40 minutes before the next weigh in. Even The Age picked up this AAP story, in which D’Avila was apparently paid $12,500.

Fortunately Jonathan Holmes of ABC’s Media Watch gives this story – and much of the Sensaslim con it’s due, below. The final insult is that now – on their new website – SensaSlim is offered free to jockeys over the 2011 racing season. Again, they use the made up claims attributed to Dr. Capehorn. He denies ever making them and lists this, along with use of his endorsement and identity before he actually sighted evidence, as a key reason for quitting his role as Research Director. He is suing SensaSlim for breach of contract and they are suing him for breach of contract. Nonetheless the hilarity includes;

Dr Matthew Capehorn, SensaSlim Research Director and Clinical Director of the National Obesity Forum in the UK said, “The erratic dietary habits and pre-race preparations of many the nation’s jockeys is an ongoing tragedy waiting to happen.”

Dr Capehorn noted recent press reports in Australia that highlighted not only eating disorders in the sport but lethal lifestyle choices associated with the need to lose weight quickly. He said the same pattern could be seen in the racing industry around the world.

Jockeys are traumatised and tortured every day by food deprivation,” Dr Capehorn said. “The constant thoughts of food and being hungry have led to mental breakdowns, domestic violence and even suicide.

One can only anticipate the demise of this scam with something close to urgent glee. Nasty people, nasty tactics, nasty claims. Australia still lacks appropriate legislation to effectively and quickly deal with this type of nonsense. Though on the positive side, their assets are frozen, they went into liquidation on July 1st and Ken Harvey’s lawyers will apply to have the defamation case struck off on July 11th.

Sadly, I’m sure SensaSlim will go on to rort consumers in Europe for some time to come.

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About @advodiaboli
I'm not really a cast iron flying pig.

One Response to SensaSlim: “The cavalry is on the way”

  1. Pingback: Oh, Oh, Oh, O’Brien of SensaSlim gives us more hanky panky « Losing In The Lucky Country

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