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Bogus Penis Enlargement Pills Seized;
Defendants Forfeit over $35 million

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In June 2002, the Arizona Attorney General, together with the U.S. Customs Service and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, seized over $30 million in luxury homes, cars, cash, jewelry, and bank accounts throughout Arizona from individuals operating a company that primarily sold "penis enlargement" pills over the Internet [1]. The individuals named in the civil forfeiture action were Michael A. Consoli, Vincent J. Passafiume; and Geraldine Consoli, Michael's mother.

Operating as C.P. Direct, Inc. from a Scottsdale office building, the business sold capsules or pills called "Longitude," which were claimed to open up erectile tissue chambers to permanently enlarge the penis 1-3 inches, or larger if taken for a longer time, netting permanent results within months. Users were warned to stop at 8 or 9 inches because, "Any longer of a penis would be too large for most women to handle." [2] The product, said to have been created by a "former Viagra pharmacist," was said to contain zinc, yohimbe, maca, catuaba, muira pauma, oyster meat, L-arginine, oat straw, nettle leaf, cayenne, pumpkin seed, sarsaparilla, orchic substance, licorice root, astragalus, tribulus, boron, and ginseng [2].

The web site offered testimonials, purported before-and-after photographs and endorsements from magazines and nationally syndicated radio host Howard Stern. The company also guaranteed growth at home -- "without pumps, weights or surgery" -- and offered to refund 100% of customers' money, including shipping fees, if customers were not satisfied. A one-month bottle of Longitude cost $59.95 plus shipping and handling for the first month, then $39.95 thereafter, even though the company only paid about $2.50 per bottle for the pills. Many customers complained that they did not receive requested refunds and that the company had continued to ship products and charge for further shipments after being asked to stop.

In addition to Longitude, the company sold "Stature," which was "guaranteed" to permanently increase height by 1-4 inches in a matter of months and "Full and Firm" capsules "guaranteed" to increase female breast size by 2-3 cup sizes in a matter of months. Documents in the case indicate that the "before-and-after" photographs had been copied from a competitors' Web site and had no connection with the defendants' products [3]. A newspaper report stated that the defendants bilked hopeful consumers more than $70 million [4].

The seized property included the office building housing the company, luxury real estate in Paradise Valley and Scottsdale, eight late-model Mercedes Benz vehicles, one 2002 Cadillac, one 1998 Lamborghini, a 1991 Rolls Royce, a Ferrari and a Bentley. Also seized was more than $20 million in bank accounts, nearly $3 million in cash, and a trove of luxury jewelry. The Superior Court appointed a receiver who closed three company Web sites and will use the seized property to pay restitution to the victims.

The defendants had a significant history of fraud in Arizona. In 1996, the Consolis settled consumer fraud allegations with the State, and in 1999, the Consolis and Passafiume were prohibited by a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge from doing business in the State of Arizona in any way that used the mail, the Internet or other telecommunication devices for retail sales. The Consolis and Passafiume had previously operated a fraudulent discount buying club, which sold computers and other electronic devices. The trio had also refused to refund customers' money when asked and made unauthorized charges to consumers' credit cards.

In May 2003, the defendants signed a consent agreement under which they forfeited about $35 million in cash and property. In return, the prosecutors agreed to seek probation rather than prison time to allow the defendants to keep furniture, other household furnishings, jewelry, clothing, three Mercedes Benz cars, and $1.38 million in cash, out of which the Arizona Attorney General's office would receive $200,000 as attorney fees and defendants lawyers would receive up to $175,000 [3]. The defendants also agreed that they would not resume any form of direct marketing without prior authorization from the Arizona Attorney general and would not enter any business agreement involving the sale of nutritional or electronic products without showing a copy of the settlement agreement to the other parties.

The case illustrates how easy it is to fool men who are worried about their penis size. Penis-enlargement pills are fakes. Moreover, penis size has very little to do with sexual pleasure or performance. The most important factors in reaching sexual satisfaction are how the participants feel about each other and how well they communicate what they want.

Information on consumer restitution and other documents in the case can be accessed on the receiver's Web site.

References

  1. Arizona Attorney General. Attorney General, U.S. Customs Service, Arizona Department of Public Safety seize more than $30 million in assets from company selling bogus growth pills. Press release, May 29, 2002.
  2. Longitude Web site, archived Oct 19, 2000.
  3. Settlement agreement, findings of fact, conclusions of law, and consent to judgment re C.P. Direct, Inc. et al. State of Arizona ex rel Terry Goddard, Plaintiff, v. C.P. Direct, dba Nutritional Supplements, Inc., Michael Consoli, Vincent Passafiume, Nutritionals Direct, Inc., dba Nutritional Supplements, Inc., VJP Investments, Inc., Suzanne Rye, Judy Anderson, Michael Kwadecius, Laura Hughes, et al, Defendants, and various bank accounts and other property as more particularly described in Appendix One. Superior Court of the State of Arizona in and for the County of Maricopa No. CV 2002-011275 (SW 2002-000373). May 2003.
  4. Baker N. Selling bogus body enhancers costs trio's holdings. The Arizona Republic, May 29, 2003.

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This page was revised on June 17, 2003.