Bodybuilding.com, the Meridian online retailer of nutritional supplements, and its former president pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to five misdemeanor counts of selling products that were drugs but misbranded as dietary supplements.
The pleas followed previously announced plea agreements in which Bodybuilding said it would pay a $7 million fine and former President Jeremy DeLuca said he would pay a $600,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors are recommending probation for DeLuca and no prison term.
During two hearings Tuesday morning, both the company and DeLuca admitted responsibility for introducing misbranded products into interstate commerce, a violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
Ryan DeLuca, Bodybuilding.com's founder and CEO, has pleaded guilty to similar misbranding charges and agreed to a $500,000 fine. Ryan is Jeremy's brother.
"Today's guilty pleas signal that retailers as well as manufacturers who sell products that they identify as dietary supplements have a clear responsibility under the law to ensure that those products are in fact dietary supplements" said Wendy Olson, U.S. attorney for Idaho.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale forwarded the plea agreements to U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill for consideration at sentencing, which is set for Aug. 1.
Prosecutors say the misbranded products contained synthetic anabolic steroids or clones of synthetic steroids.
The labels on five products - I Force Methadrol, Nutra Costal D-Stianozol, I Force Dymethazine, Rage RV5 and Genetic Edge Technologies (GET) SUS500 - said they were dietary supplements, but the products were actually drugs that contained synthetic anabolic steroids or clones of the synthetic steroids, prosecutors say.
Users take anabolic steroids or steroid-like substances to build muscle mass. The steroids simulate testosterone.
The court can impose a fine of up to twice the gain on the sales of the products, according to Bodybuilding.com's plea agreement. Court documents said the company made $3.5 million on the sales of the drugs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration started a criminal investigation of Bodybuilding.com in 2007. Between February 2008 and August 2009, an FDA special agent made four purchases from the company, according to a 2009 affidavit. The investigator said that 23 of the 31 products he bought contained one or more of five anabolic steroids. In September 2009, authorities raided Bodybuilding.com's headquarters in the SilverStone Corporate Center and its Boise warehouse, seizing cans, bottles, merchandise and business records.
Liberty Media, the Colorado-based owner of the QVC home-shopping cable network, bought an 83 percent stake in Bodybuilding.com for more than $100 million in January 2008. Bodybuilding.com is now part of Liberty Interactive, which was split off from Liberty Media last September.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408