The head of a New Jersey dietary-ingredient combine risks decades in prison, admitting today that he authorized substitution of costly ingredients with cheaper chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamines.


David Romeo, 46, of Washington Township, accepted a guilty plea to counts of conspiracy to distribute three kilograms or more of meth precursors, money laundering, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded food to interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, according to information from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The principal of Global Nutrients, Stella Labs and Nutraceuticals, is scheduled to learn how much time he can expect to spend behind bars on May 18. He also agreed to forfeit more than $1,200,000 representing money he garnered in the scheme.

Mail fraud carries a possible prison term of 20 years and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. Misbranding has a maximum three-year sentence.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) probed the false supplement allegations.

Romeo's business centered on the sale of hoodia, derived from a rare South African plant, Hoodia gordonii. He told authorities that as far back as 2003, he directed workers to substitute it with chemicals manufactured in China, which he and associates referred to as "SOP," common vernacular for "standard operating procedure."

Clients were mostly companies that produce dietary supplements. He admitted that most were done without the customers' knowledge or consent. Romeo admitted that the deception consituted a loss of more than $7,000,000.

In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) previously obtained a court order barring Romeo and the companies from issuing weight-loss claims about supplements he sold.