Web Posted: 12/24/2008 12:00 CST Body Solutions founder given prison term
By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News Once Siskind found out he would go to prison for more than three years for lying to keep assets hidden from the Federal Trade Commission, he became indignant. Siskind, 53, raced away from reporters following the proceeding in a San Antonio court, giving a one-finger salute.
The 37-month sentence U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia handed him riled Siskind and his supporters, who argued that the judge was lenient last week when sentencing a man who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography, which they believe is a worse offense. Some supporters who didn't attend the court proceeding are prominent San Antonians.
Siskind's lawyer, Robbie Ward, asked the judge to hand Siskind five years of probation. Ward painted Siskind as “an incredibly decent man his entire life” who donated $5 million a year to charities.
But in 2002, the FTC imposed a $155 million penalty against Siskind for his misrepresentations.
Ward's filings also said Siskind suffered enough, now is divorced from his wife, Patricia, and has been trying to piece his life back together since his company, Mark Nutritionals Inc., collapsed. “We are asking that you don't let this be the event that defines him,” Ward said.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Harris argued that Siskind was trying to squirm out from under the terms of a plea deal that was reached in May. He argued that a sentence within the recommended guideline range of 30 months to 37 months was appropriate.
The judge gave Siskind the high end of that range, fined him $10,000 and ordered Siskind to serve three years of federal supervision after his release from prison. The judge allowed Siskind to stay out on bond and report to prison in March.
Barring any appeals, Siskind would serve at least 85 percent of his prison term.
As his attorney left court, Ward said the sentence was “obviously a huge disappointment,” and cited a presentence report that said Siskind arguably paid whatever penalty he owed to the FTC.
Inside the court's rotunda, Siskind complained to his friends that he was seen as worse than a “child pornographer.”
He referred to Sam Mims, a New Braunfels musician and producer whom Garcia sentenced last week to five years of probation for possessing child pornography.
In Mims' case, the judge chose to give him probation rather than risk being overturned on appeal. In two cases similar to Mims', the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has rejected prison sentences of defendants who — like Mims — were proactively getting counseling and hadn't acted out by inappropriately touching or molesting children.
As for Siskind, the fallout lingers from his Body Solutions product, which was widely marketed beginning in 1999.
The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2002. By then, it had stopped paying hundreds of radio stations for advertisements, most of them personal testimonials of disc jockeys who claimed to have lost weight by taking the Body Solutions Evening Weight Loss Formula.
The firm claimed users could lose substantial weight without diet or exercise if they took the formula.
In 2002, the FTC sued Siskind's company and reached a settlement with Siskind in 2004 that would have resulted in him paying $500,000, a fraction of a $155 million penalty initially sought.
However, during that civil case and in connection with the company's bankruptcy, the FTC took a deposition of Siskind, seeking information on any assets he owned or controlled. He falsely stated under oath that assets owned by him in other companies, Digital Defense and SecureInfo, were worthless stock when in fact they were valuable loans owed to him that were going to be repaid. As a result, the entire $155 million penalty remains in place, officials said.
Prosecutor Harris told reporters that the lesson from the Siskind case is that anyone who undertakes an oath while involved in the court process has a responsibility.
“We expect people to be honest in their dealings with the government,” Harris said. Body Solutions founder given prison term