LOS ANGELES – Continuing to stand up for an anxious public by confronting COVID-19 consumer issues, City Attorney Mike Feuer announced today that his office is suing Wellness Matrix Group (WMGR), Director of Business Affairs and co-owner George Todt and CEO Barry Migliorini alleging unfair, fraudulent and dangerous business practices tied to their at-home tests and numerous disinfectant products. In late March, Feuer sent a substantiation letter to WMGR over claims made about its allegedly fake at-home tests. The civil lawsuit seeks to stop the alleged unlawful practices, obtain full restitution for consumers and civil penalties.
"It's inexcusable to try to profit from this pandemic at the expense of people's health. We allege these defendants have been doing just that, engaging in a pattern of misrepresentation to boost their sales that includes fabricating a study to help pitch one of their products, claiming to have government approvals they've never had, and more,:” said Feuer. "During this health crisis we'll continue to be especially vigilant about protecting an anxious public from those who would try to take advantage of them."
Wellness Matrix Group is a Nevada corporation headquartered in Huntington Beach. Incorporated in 2009 as a “next generation health and wellness platform,” it more recently does business, as alleged in the Complaint, as CoronaStop28, CoronaStopper, CoronaStoppers, StopCorona28 and other related names when selling its at-home COVID-19 serology tests and related COVID-19 disinfectant products, from 2-oz bottles for personal use to 55-gallon drums intended for large-scale disinfection. The Complaint also alleges that George Todt of Marina Del Rey is the Director of Business Affairs for WMGR and an owner of WMGR through his ownership stake in Chanzong Huayan, LLC and that Barry Migliorini of Fountain Valley is WMGR’s CEO.
To sell WMGR’s COVID-19 at-home tests and disinfectant products, Todt and Migliorini allegedly made and advertised a number of false claims designed to communicate that they were approved and endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and leading scientific experts. They did not simply stop at making false statements on behalf of WMGR; they allegedly attached false government registration numbers to these products and fabricated phony scientific studies and white papers to substantiate their false claims.
Under the law, a manufacturer’s at-home medical diagnostic test cannot be sold in California or anywhere else in the nation unless it has FDA approval. Contrary to WMGR’s alleged false claims and advertising, the FDA never approved their at-home test. And to date, the FDA has not approved any at-home serology tests. But Todt and Migliorini continued making these alleged false claims while selling tests in California, including in the City of Los Angeles.
Defendants also allegedly engaged in fraud in selling disinfectants they claim protect against COVID-19. Similar to medical tests and devices, the sale of disinfectant products is highly regulated by state and federal government. The EPA and California Department of Pesticide Registration (CDPR) regulate the sale of disinfectants classified as pesticides and unless it is registered on the official EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 and also registered officially with the CDPR, it cannot be sold in California. However, Defendants sold COVID-19 disinfectants that are allegedly not listed with either the EPA or CDPR. More unsettling, as the Complaint alleges, the EPA registration numbers associated with Defendants’ products are fabricated.
Defendants additionally claim that their COVID-19 disinfectants are EPA-approved, can be applied directly to the skin, are non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Also included in their advertising is a purported scientific research paper, supposedly authored by a distinguished researcher and professor of medicine. But this too is a work of fiction. The Complaint alleges that Defendants made up the study and stole the researcher’s name and credentials.
In the last month, Wellness Matrix Group, Todt and Migliorini have been the subject of extensive investigative reporting, inquiries from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and a letter sent from our Office demanding they substantiate their advertising claims and putting them on notice of our authority to enforce California’s unfair competition and false advertising laws. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also temporarily suspended trading of WMGR stock. Despite this, they continue to operate.
Among the numerous violations alleged in this case:
Unfair Competition Law;
False Advertising Law;
The Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law;
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rondenticide Act;
The California Food and Agricultural Code – Pesticide Regulations; and
California’s Greenwashing Law.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the alleged unlawful practices, obtain full restitution for consumers who were duped and civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.
City Attorney Feuer collaborated with the FDA Office of Criminal Investigation, the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, and EPA Region 9.
The case is being litigated by the City Attorney Criminal and Special Litigation Branch, including Will Rivera, Deputy Chief; Christina Tusan, Supervising Deputy City Attorney; and Deputy City Attorneys William Pletcher, Miguel Ruiz, Carr Tekosky, Alex Bergjans and Rebecca Morse.
At the same time the Complaint against WMGR was filed, Feuer’s office also sent letters to several companies advertising the same or similar disinfectant products as WMGR that they claim can kill or eliminate the novel coronavirus weeks after application, asking them to substantiate their advertising. The companies receiving letters include:
Earthcare Environmental Corporation, Newport Beach, California
Medical Specialties Group of Louisiana, LLC, Pensacola, Florida
Strategia Project Management LLC, Oak Brook, Illinois
CoronaCide LLC, Sandy, Utah
Since the beginning of the outbreak in Los Angeles in early March, City Attorney Mike Feuer has been a national leader in grappling with the wide-array of COVID-19 related issues, including filing a total of 11 enforcement actions against individuals and entities allegedly engaging in price gouging and other COVID-19 related scams as well as other actions to protect consumers:
Filing six criminal complaints against individuals and entities allegedly engaged in price gouging;
Filing a lawsuit and obtaining a preliminary injunction against a seller of an allegedly deceptively advertised COVID-19 radish paste cure;
Filing four civil lawsuits against companies and individuals selling unapproved and/or fraudulent COVID-19 test kits;
Negotiating two settlements that required defendants offering allegedly unauthorized COVID-19 at-home test kits to cease their practices and to provide all purchasers with full restitution in an amount totaling over $170,000;
Filing a criminal complaint against an individual for allegedly selling unapproved COVID-19 test kits through craigslist;
Sending out cease and desist letters to companies and individual allegedly engaged in price gouging or other allegedly deceptive practices aimed at taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic;
Forming the Joint Coronavirus Task Force with LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles County Counsel and Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs;
Launching the Behind Closed Doors campaign to help victims of in-home crimes amid the crisis;
Partnering with Mayor Eric Garcetti on "LA Represents" which gives legal assistance to Angelenos facing hardships;
Hosting the Hate Crime Prevention Forum in response to hate incidents targeting the Asian American Pacific Islander community;
Enforcing the Safer at Home Order for nonessential businesses, and defending the Order against challenges from gun rights groups.