Neways Pleads Guilty to Illegal HGH Sales;
Founders Subsequently Convicted of Income Tax Evasion
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
In October 2003, Neways International, of Springville, Utah, pleaded guilty to a felony count of illegally distributing a product containing human growth hormone. The product, called BioGevity, was was touted as having a rejuvenating effect, including having the ability to "lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides, increase IGF-1 levels [insulin-like growth factors], improve sexual frequency, decrease wrinkle appearance, [and] increase body fat loss." Neways' promotional material also claimed that its oral spray was the equivalent of injectable HGH. Neways sold about 100,000 bottles of BioGevity during the time it contained HGH in the product. HGH cannot be sold without a doctor's prescription. As part of its guilty plea, the company officials have agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation being conducted by the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations . In January 2004, as agreed in the plea bargain, Neways was ordered to pay a $500,000 criminal fine and to forfeit the $1.25 million profit it made on the sale of BioGevity from March 1999 until April 2000, when the hormone was removed from its formula. In addition, the company was placed on probation for three years and required to notify the Court of any claims of harm resulting from the use of BioGevity .
Neways is a multilevel company incorporated in 1992 that markets through a network of independent distributors. Its annual sales have been reported to exceed $400 million. The company's Web site stated that BioGevity contained "lurong Extract with growth nutrients to support already healthy cells, and the uptake of amino acids" and "supports the body's own natural production of growth nutrients" to "help you maintain youthful vitality." Lurong extract is said to be derived from deer antler velvet. A BioGevity fact sheet dated July 2000 stated that it also contained bovine colostrum, ginkgo biloba, and vitamin C and that it "aids the body's overall health," "supports against the effects of aging," provides growth nutrients to maintain cellular health," "maintains cardiovascular function and already normal blood pressure," and "assists the body's natural immune function," "enhances athletic performance," supports reproductive function, "enhances mental acuity," and "supports healthy weight management." These claims have not been scientifically substantiated.
In 1993, Neways recalled 4,900 units of "Quickly," an alleged weight-management product. Although the product's label stated that it contained only papaya, kelp, garlic, and lactose, the FDA found that it contained a full medical dose of furosemide, a prescription-only diuretic .
In 2002, Neways founders and owners Thomas and Leslie DeeAnn Mowers surrendered executive control of the company after being charged with tax evasion and conspiracy for allegedly failing to report $3 million in commissions on overseas sales of cosmetics and health supplements . A subsequent indictment charged former Neways corporate attorney James Thompson of Chandler, Arizona, with conspiracy and obstructing an IRS investigation and lodged a second conspiracy charge against the Mowers, saying all three tried to conceal an additional $1 million in Neways sales . In March 2005, a jury found the trio guilty of conspiracy, found the Mowers guilty of income tax evasion, and convicted Thompson of corruptly impeding the due administration of the internal revenue laws .
- US Attorney, Central District of California. Utah company pleads guilty in illegal sale of human growth hormone. Press release Oct 3, 2003.
- US Attorney, Central District of California. Illegal sale of human growth hormone costs Utah company nearly $2 million. Press release, Jan 29, 2004.
- FDA announces that Neways Inc to recall QUICKLY weight loss products. FDA news release, Nov 12, 1993.
- Hunt S. Neways owners plead innocent on tax evasion charges. Salt Lake City Tribune, Dec 21, 2002.
- Grand jury adds to indictment. Salt Lake City Tribune, April 10, 2003.
- US Attorney, Central District of California. Utah corporate executives and legal counsel convicted of tax fraud. Press release, March 18, 2005.
This article was revised on July 9, 2005.