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The State

IRS Agents Raid Firm

Investigation: Documents are seized at San Diego-based Metabolife as part of a tax evasion probe.

July 11, 2002|DAN MORAIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Internal Revenue Service agents on Wednesday seized documents at a major San Diego marketer of herbal weight-loss products as part of an income tax evasion investigation, officials said.

About 40 IRS criminal investigators spent most of the day at the San Diego headquarters of Metabolife International Inc. and at its warehouse and shipping center, IRS Special Agent Mark Lessler said.

Documents seized remained under seal and the investigation is continuing.

Company workers were sent home as they arrived at work in the morning.

Metabolife acknowledged in a statement that the IRS was conducting a tax investigation.

The company has said it expects to be "fully exonerated."

The statement said the investigation apparently has nothing to do with the company's products, the most prominent of which is Metabolife 356, sold at many retail outlets.

The product contains herbal ephedrine, a stimulant used by consumers hoping to lose weight or boost athletic performance.

Researchers have linked such products to heart attacks, seizures and strokes.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced that he had commissioned a study of the largely unregulated product.

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