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July 19, 2008

Judge finds Beverly company's promise to cure cancer in infomercials 'deceptive'

BEVERLY — A federal judge has ruled that two infomercials produced by Beverly-based ITV Direct for nutritional supplements were deceptive and that the firm's owners are liable for restitution being sought by the Federal Trade Commission, which is seeking nearly $55 million.

The same judge also dismissed a countersuit filed by Donald Barrett, ITV's president, who claimed the FTC was violating his First Amendment rights by taking him to court to force him to pull the ads.

The advertisements were for products called "Coral Calcium" and "Supreme Greens with MSM" and included claims that the products cured cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's and helped people lose weight. A judge found all those claims were unsubstantiated.

The rulings by U.S. District Court Judge George O'Toole were released this week. The judge did not set a date for a hearing on restitution in the case.

In a prepared statement, ITV's attorney, Michael Sciucco, suggested the company may be willing to try to settle the two remaining counts left on the case, which involve charges that the "talk show" format of the ads and the company's automatic shipping program violate federal regulations.

"We are disappointed with the court's decision," Sciucco said. "However, as this case began over four years ago, the best thing for our customers and the company is to put this dispute behind us once and for all. Accordingly, we look forward to working with the Federal Trade Commission to resolve all remaining issues as expeditiously as possible."

ITV Direct, which has also used the name Direct Marketing, is headed by Barrett, who is from Saugus, and Robert Maihos of Beverly. The firm produces program-length infomercials for alternative health products and books and handles distribution of the products through call centers in Beverly and Maine.

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