Republican donor to pay $1.8M in fines [Dayton Daily News, Ohio :: ]
(Dayton Daily News (OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 03--Ben Suarez, a Canton businessman and Republican donor, agreed to pay $1.8 million in fines and restitution for illegally marketing products and making bogus health claims to California consumers.
Suarez and Suarez Corporation Industries is prohibited from pitching products in violation of California consumer safety laws. SCI advertised "Colon Health Complete" as capable of boosting the immune system, leading to weight loss and easing headaches, constipation, gas, parasite infections and bad breath.
The settlement was announced last week by California authorities.
While California district attorneys from 10 counties sued Suarez and SCI, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel defended Suarez, accused California authorities of prosecutorial excess and threatened to get Ohio to sue California.
At the time, Mandel was running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel sent a strongly worded two-page letter on state letterhead to California Treasurer Bill Lockyer in May 2011. Just days later, $100,000 in contributions poured into Mandel's Senate campaign from Suarez employees.
In a separate letter to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, on March 21, 2011, Mandel urged the congressman to sponsor a bill that would head off such lawsuits.
Federal authorities allege that Suarez and his chief financial officer, Michael Giorgio, illegally lined up conduits to donate the money and then tried to cover up the scheme. In September, Suarez and Giorgio pleaded not guilty to federal charges of campaign finance violations, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
It is illegal to give campaign money in the name of another individual, and federal campaign law currently limits individual candidate contributions to $2,600. Mandel, who lost the Senate race, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Mandel is running for re-election as state treasurer. His challenger is state Rep. Connie Pillich, D-Cincinnati.
The criminal case against Suarez and Giorgio is scheduled to go to trial in June in front of U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Gaughan.
May 29, 2012: Campaign donor limits scrutinized
Sept. 25, 2013: Two GOP donors indicted on federal charges
Oct. 4, 2013: Mandel's ties to donor revealed
Oct. 14, 2013: Mandel gave help to donor accused of false claims
Oct. 19, 2013: Record sought by feds went missing
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