Ohio supplement co. founder gets lower prison term

The founder of an Ohio company that sold male sexual enhancement tablets and other herbal supplements had the prison sentence for his conviction on fraud and other charges reduced to 10 years on Tuesday by a federal judge.

Steve Warshak was convicted in 2008 of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Warshak's company, Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, made products including Enzyte, which claimed to enhance male sexual performance and was promoted by a character known as "Smilin' Bob."

Warshak and other company officials were accused of bilking thousands of customers who bought Berkeley's herbal supplements via mail order. The fraud included false advertising, lying to banks and making unauthorized charges on thousands of customer credit cards, prosecutors said. A federal appeals court last year ordered a new sentencing hearing, saying the trial court wasn't clear enough about its basis for arriving at the sentence.

Before reducing Warshak's sentence, U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel noted that "the court views Steven Warshak as a very clever and confident con man."

The judge said that he was mostly unimpressed with Warshak's claim that he had turned his life around and by the letters written by friends on his behalf, but decided that several factors warranted a shorter sentence.

The most important factor was one cited by the federal appeals court - that the money lost by Warshak's customers may have been less than the $400 million estimated at his first sentencing, the newspaper reported. Spiegel defended his original estimate of $400 million, but agreed to reduce it to $100 million.

The judge said another factor was the disparity between Warshak's sentence and those of his 10 co-defendants, who all were sentenced to two years or less. Warshak thanked the judge for his reduced sentence, adding that "I know it comes with your high expectations, and I won't let you down."

Federal prosecutors objected to the reduction, saying nothing about the case has changed since Warshak's original sentencing. They also questioned the sincerity of Warshak's remorse, the newspaper reported.

"Today is the first time Mr. Warshak has said he is sorry and admitted responsibility," said Anne Porter, an assistant U.S. Attorney. "It's too late."

But Warshak told the judge that he has learned a "life-changing lesson" and wants to teach business ethics after his release from prison.

 (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)