Michael Consoli and his associates made nearly $78 million selling mail-order pills they claimed would enlarge men's sex organs, enhance women's breasts and even improve golf scores.
There was no scientific basis for saying the pills worked. The Scottsdale-based company, C.P. Direct, duped an estimated 450,000 buyers with fraudulent sales tactics. Some also were victimized by a credit-card billing scam.
That's what it says in Maricopa County Superior Court records, including plea agreements signed in August 2003 by Consoli and his nephew and partner, Vincent Passafiume. They admitted guilt. They told a judge they weren't coerced.
They agreed not to contest the government's seizure of the assets, including $26 million in cash, $1.3 million worth of exotic cars, and 14 homes and other properties valued at $18.8 million. They renounced all rights to appeal.
But now, the two Paradise Valley men claim they are victims of an overzealous state investigator who colluded with a dishonest witness.
And they contend that the Arizona Attorney General's Office strong-armed their guilty pleas, even though a separate inquiry by Maricopa County sheriff's detectives found no evidence of misconduct by investigators.
So, more than two years after serving his time, Consoli is asking the state Court of Appeals to overturn the convictions. He is also calling for an FBI investigation of "government corruption" and hopes to get back whatever is left of the money.
"All I wanted to do is make guys' penises 3 inches longer, and I'm the bad guy?" Consoli asks. "This is about what the state of Arizona did to us to get the money."
Across town, Assistant Attorney General Marc Knops shakes his head. He says court records clearly identify the bad guys in this tale: Consoli and Passafiume.
According to one witness, the two laughed at the gullibility of men who bought penis-enlarging pills known as Longitude and SizeMax. They acquired Paradise Valley mansions and drove exotic cars when they weren't being chauffeured around in a white limousine. They kept more than $2.8 million in neatly stacked $100 bills inside a bedroom safe.
Production costs were just $2.65 for a bottle of 60 pills of Longitude. Consumers were charged more than $50 per container. According to court findings, some customers who wanted only a single order were placed on a monthly program and found it nearly impossible to cancel orders or get refunds.
So many complaints poured in that credit-card companies refused to do business with C.P. Direct. Consoli, desperate to continue charging pills to clients, admits he began bribing a broker who allegedly schemed to provide new credit-card services.
By late 2001, C.P. Direct was grossing up to $8 million a month. One-quarter of that money went into advertising. A typical commercial for Longitude promised a 26 percent size increase. There was even a before-and-after photo contest, with the winner supposedly getting a Lamborghini.
It goes on from there. Mostly just disturbing stuff that gets me really angry! These guys are the "boiler rooms" of the dietary supplement industry.
(At the same time, maybe this story comes at the perfect time since Pat and I are working on a "10 Tips for buying dietary supplements" article..."Don't buy penis enlargement pills" shouldn't even need to be on the list, but then again, I imagine half a million dudes would probably have liked to have heard that before wasting $60 on a $2.65 bottle of garbage. Sadly, 2300% markups are not uncommon in the dietary supplement business, especially when MLM's, aka. "Direct Sales" are involved.)
I was curious as to what ingredients could justify a 2300% markup, so I googled Longitude. But one look at the results page, I decided I'd just rather not sort through them.