“The suspect was operating a business online through Amazon, where he was selling counterfeit health supplements to the public to defraud them into believing that they were purchasing health items manufactured by a national company,” said Chief Walt Miller of the Evesham Township Police Department at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Snyder allegedly mimicked the supplement product packaging and subbed in ingredients including cinnamon and sugar to replicate the consistency and look of the supplements. An Evesham Police spokesperson confirmed to NutraIngredients-USA that Snyder was counterfeiting L-Glutamine by Pure Encapsulations, a Nestlé subsidiary, and GutConnect365 by Nature M.D., owned by Veyl Ventures.
The investigation and the charges
According to the police chief, Snyder began the operation in November 2021 using the business names Apexx and Miracle Tonics to create storefronts on Amazon and ultimately defraud consumers out of $130,000. The investigation into the counterfeit products was triggered by consumer complaints to Nestlé about the quality of the product purchased.
"Nestlé began investigating, they notified Amazon that their products were being counterfeited and then Amazon notified law enforcement," Miller said, adding that his department launched the investigation a couple weeks ago.
After a sweep of Snyder’s condo and a public storage facility nearby, authorities charged him with theft by deception, counterfeiting and the use of a computer in criminal activity. The ingredients did not appear to be harmful, they said, but without FDA-mandated good manufacturing practices, counterfeit products run the risks of containing major allergens.
Snyder is being held at the Burlington County Jail pending the first appearance hearing in Superior Court and could face up to 10 years in prison for a second-degree offense, Miller said.
Not an isolated case
Food and drug regulatory expert Steven Shapiro, of counsel to law firm Rivkin Radler LLP, noted the seriousness of the charges and referenced other recent cases in which supplement companies reported counterfeits of their products on Amazon—namely Fungi Perfecti and NOW Foods. He added that these are likely not the only companies affected and that the counterfeiting issue is probably more widespread.
“Companies should be investigating what is going on online and protect their brands,” he told NutraIngredients-USA. “If they see things that are unusual, they should take steps to investigate the way that Nestlé, Fungi Perfecti and NOW have.”
Amazon launched Project Zero in 2019 to help “drive counterfeits to zero” and established its Counterfeit Crimes Unit (CCU) in 2020 to investigate crimes and bring legal action against counterfeiters. The global task force is made up of former federal prosecutors, investigators and data analysts.
Speaking at the CRN-ACI Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum this summer, Joseph Wheatley, senior corporate counsel at Amazon’s CCU, stressed how seriously Amazon takes these types of cases.
“Our view is that if a brand is impacted by counterfeiting, we want to do everything we can to work with that brand to bring bad actors to justice,” he said.
In its third annual Brand Protection Report, released in April, the online retailer said that it sued or referred for investigation over 1,300 criminals in the U.S., U.K., E.U. and China, and identified, seized and appropriately disposed of over six million counterfeit products in 2022.
“We take pride in the progress our organization has made this past year, specifically further evolving our technology to stay ahead of bad actors and doubling down on our criminal referral and litigation efforts,” Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of worldwide selling partner services, said at the time. “We’re appreciative of the growing industry-wide collaboration in this space and look forward to continuing to innovate and work together to drive counterfeits to zero.”
The Evesham Police has asked anyone who has purchased from the Apexx and Miracle Tonics storefronts to contact the department at (856) 983-1116 or submit a report through its website.
Amazon did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.