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Guilty plea for Neways on hormone

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 7 2003 6:47 a.m. MDT

A Utah company has pleaded guilty to selling a dietary supplement containing human growth hormone to buyers without a doctor's prescription.

Springville-based Neways Inc. agreed through its corporate counsel to pay a $500,000 criminal fine and forfeit $1.25 million in profits from the supplement dubbed BioGevity, which was sold in spray bottles.

U.S. Attorney Debra Yang of Los Angeles announced terms of the criminal settlement on Monday. The sentenced will be imposed Dec. 15 by U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz.

In a statement, Neways chief executive Michael Cunningham said his suppliers incorrectly assured the company it could sell a dietary supplement containing small amounts of human growth hormone without a doctor's prescription, even though federal law makes that a felony.

Cunningham said Neways dropped BioGevity, a "highly successful" product and "top-seller," in April 2000 before it was aware of the government investigation. Yang said the company sold 100,000 bottles of the spray over a year.

"This is a fair and balanced settlement that represents the culmination of years of cooperation between Neways and the U.S. government agencies involved," Cunningham said in the statement.

No company officers were charged for distributing the oral spray, which Neways touted for its supposed ability to lower cholesterol, improve sexual performance and bring other health benefits.

Human growth hormone can lead to medical problems including enlargement and distortion of facial features, Yang said.

The case was handled by the Food and Drug Administration's office of criminal investigations.

Neways makes and sells cosmetics, skin-care products, health supplements and other personal care items in the United States and 35 other countries.

Neways founders and owners Thomas and Leslie DeeAnn Mower, now divorced, surrendered executive control of the company more than a year ago after being charged with tax evasion and conspiracy. They were accused of hiding $4 million in income from the Internal Revenue Service. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Former company attorney James Thompson pleaded not guilty last April to one count of conspiracy and another of obstruction.

Neways, which has 458 workers in Utah, moved into a $14 million headquarters in Springville last April.

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