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September 03, 2009
International cooperation shuts down “quack medicine” Web sites

McKenna thanks Australian authorities for closing the book on eBook sellers

SEATTLE – Working with the Washington Attorney General’s Office, Australian authorities recently announced they’ve shut down an Internet health scam that fleeced more than 60,000 consumers worldwide.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission obtained an order against Leanne Rita Vassallo and Aaron David Smith, both of Cecil Hills, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, concerning false, misleading and deceptive conduct.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office, which is separately pursuing civil charges against the defendants, brought the case to the ACCC’s attention.

Attorney General Rob McKenna thanked the ACCC for its assistance. He said this is the first time the Washington Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has reached across international seas to cooperate with foreign officials, but it likely won’t be the last.

“Web-world scams won’t save you from real-world laws,” McKenna warned.

Vassallo and Smith were alleged to have sold eBooks for a wide range of health conditions including acne, asthma, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, menopause and prostate cancer.

In the federal court in Sydney, Justice Peter Graham described the pair as “purveyors of quack medical advice and quack medicine.” He noted they had received more than $1 million in sales.

The defendants are permanently barred from making similar representations in the future.

The state’s case is still pending. The Attorney General’s Office is seeking civil penalties and restitution, in addition to injunctive relief.


ACCC news release
ACCC permanent injunction order – Aug. 25, 2009
ACCC judgment – Aug. 20, 2009
Federal Court of Australia

Washington AGO news release – Aug. 4, 2009
Washington AGO complaint
Sample Web Site Screenshot: Staph Infection

Media Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager – Seattle, (206) 464-6432,
Lin Enright, Media Liaison Officer, ACCC, +61 2 6243 1108,

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