Sanctions Imposed For Fraudulent Telemarketing Of Terrorism "crisis Kits"

Attorney General Spitzer today announced his office has obtained a court order shutting down an Erie County firm that attempted to capitalize on public fear of terrorist attacks by frightening consumers into buying "crisis kits" that included potassium iodide pills.

Joseph Bella, the owner of Radi-Aid, Inc. and the Laboratories of BioFend, consented to the court order after sending fraudulent telemarketing messages about possible future terrorism as part of a marketing pitch to sell potassium iodine pills. The court order bans Bella from operating a business related to the sale and distribution of any product or service that claims to protect consumers against terrorist threats and radiation emergencies. It bars Bella from doing business as the "Laboratories of BioFend" and requires the dissolution of Radi-Aid, Inc.

"It is shameful that this individual attempted to profit by inciting fear in Western New Yorkers of an imminent terrorist attack," Spitzer said.

On October 18th, hundreds of consumers in Erie County received pre-recorded calls saying that BioFend agents believed that terrorists plan to detonate "dirty bombs" in the Western New York area. The message further led consumers to believe that BioFend had been given responsibility by a governmental agency to safeguard the community by distributing "crisis kits" to every household.

These "crisis kits" turned out to be an attempt by Bella to sell potassium iodine pills -- an over-the-counter medication used as a prophylactic measure against radiation exposure in the event of a nuclear reactor leak or the explosion of a nuclear bomb.

Bella's pre-recorded phone messages were made only five weeks after five Buffalo-area men were charged by federal authorities with providing material support for terrorists.

The court-approved settlement was signed by Justice John P. Lane of State Supreme Court in Erie County and requires Bella to pay $2,500 in civil penalties for violating state laws prohibiting deceptive business practices.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey in the Buffalo Regional Office.