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FTC sues to block promoters of bogus diabetes 'cure'

MICHAEL KUNZELMAN

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Federal regulators are suing to block pamphlet and newsletter publishers from marketing a purported cure for diabetes and advertising claims that consumers can collect $1 trillion in "Congressional Checks" or "Republican Checks."

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Maryland, the Federal Trade Commission says publishers of "The Doctor's Guide to Reversing Diabetes in 28 Days" are falsely promising a cure for the disease without dietary changes or exercise.

The FTC's suit says other publications are duping consumers into thinking they can collect hundreds of thousands of dollars per month by following instructions in a book entitled, "Congress' Secret $1.17 Trillion Giveaway."

Five Baltimore-based companies, including Agora Financial LLC and NewMarket Health LLC, and two men identified as editors of the pamphlets and newsletters are named as defendants in the suit.

The FTC's suit seeks a court order that would freeze the companies' assets and provide restitution or refunds for consumers.

The publications' editors, Zachary Scheidt and Richard Gerhauser, didn't immediately respond to emails seeking comment. A woman who answered a telephone number for Agora Financial said she couldn't take a message for Scheidt. A woman who answered the phone at a business listing for Gerhauser in Arizona said he was "on sabbatical."

The FTC's suit says the defendants' products offer "health advice and moneymaking tips" targeted to senior citizens or retirees.

Gerhauser is the author of the pamphlets promoting a 28-day cure for Type 2 diabetes, according to the suit. Ads for the publication link to a video that says "mainstream solutions" to diabetes, such as dietary changes and exercise, are making patients' diabetes worse. The publications also claim a "shocking, hidden cause" of Type 2 diabetes is exposure to electronic devices, such as computers, televisions and cellphones.

Scheidt is the author of "Congress' Secret $1.17 Trillion Giveaway," the suit says. Online ads for "Congressional Checks" or "Republican Checks" link to an hourlong video that Scheidt purportedly narrates. The video says lawmakers in 2017 added a "last-minute provision" to a "just-passed tax plan" that could allow consumers to collect thousands of dollars a month.

"Congressional Checks Defendants tell consumers that several members of Congress are already taking advantage of this 'loophole' and collecting thousands to millions of dollars," the suit says.

Marketing materials for the 'giveaway' included doctored images of financial disclosure reports for former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa to make it appear that the California Republican received a $410,000 "Congressional Check."

"Congressman Issa's actual Financial Disclosure Report is publicly available on the U.S. House of Representatives' website and there is no 'Congressional' or 'Republican' Check identified anywhere in the report," the suit says.