3 plead not guilty to wire-fraud charges

Indictment alleges they promoted drug T-UP as cure for cancer, AIDS

July 17, 1999|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Three men accused of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy in an alleged scheme to mislead people into paying $12,000 each for an unapproved drug entered not guilty pleas in U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday.

The pleas were entered by Allen J. Hoffman, president of Baltimore-based T-UP Inc., Donald L. MacNay, a Manassas, Va., doctor, and Odus M. Hennessee, owner of an Oklahoma cosmetics laboratory.

The three are accused of falsely promoting the drug "T-UP" as a cure for cancer, AIDS, herpes and other immune disorders, according to federal court filings. T-UP is supposedly a concentrated form of aloe vera, a natural substance used in ointments and hand lotions.

Levi Rabinowitz, a Baltimore-based media consultant and spokesman for T-UP, said claims that T-UP fights cancer are no different from those in a recent orange juice industry promotion that says drinking orange juice fights cancer. Using the rationale of federal authorities, orange juice would be considered a drug, he said.

According to the indictment, patients took the drug orally or intravenously, depending on MacNay's advice. A two-week intravenous treatment cost $12,000, and a 2-ounce bottle of aloe juice cost $75, according to court papers.

The federal indictment charges that the three men promoted T-UP in mass mailings and on interstate radio broadcasts, videotapes and the Internet.

The indictment also alleges that MacNay, Hoffman and Hennessee misled consumers about their educational and medical backgrounds, experience and credentials to sell T-UP and that they falsely claimed that the drug had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Maryland attorney general's office, which has filed a consumer-protection claim against the company, says the three men collected $2.3 million from T-UP sales between April 1997 and October last year. During that period, 3,706 people paid for the treatment, the complaint alleges.

Rabinowitz said the product is safe when used as directed to boost the immune system or to fight cancer and AIDS. "To the best of my knowledge, this product was always promoted as a dietary supplement, not as a drug," Rabinowitz said.

The trial of the three men is scheduled for Sept. 27. Hoffman was released on a $500,000 bond, and Hennessee and MacNay were released without bail.

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