Two north-east sisters who duped thousands of slimmers with fake diet treatments have been ordered to pay back more than £800,000.
Helen Buchan, 52, and Carol Wiseman, 51, from Fraserburgh, made millions of pounds through their Secret Diet Drops business.
The pair offered remedies that claimed to help burn fat and even treat cancer but the victims they preyed upon later discovered they were worthless.
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The siblings were fined £9,000 two years ago but ever since The Crown has been pursuing them under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
After months of evidence and legal argument, Buchan, of Greenbank Grove, and Wiseman, of Burns Place, appeared at Peterhead Sheriff Court yesterday where they were hit with confiscation orders of £528,505.87 and £298,316.24 respectively.
The sisters have been given six months to pay the amounts but must return to court in February to detail to authorities how they will cough up the cash.
Buchan and Wiseman made more than £2 million from their diet aids scam, which was convincing enough to snare countless victims.
The Broch siblings admitted selling common apple vinegar cider and telling people it would break down fat, kill cancer cells and help with arthritis.
They confessed to a series of charges under consumer protection laws which included misleading commercial practice by a company and a trader engaging in misleading action.
Buchan and Wiseman were fined in 2016 and both given 180 hours of unpaid work as a direct alternative to jail.
Secret Diet Drops was dissolved by Companies House three months after the pair were punishment was handed down.
The Crown’s bid to recoup the money made by the illicit gains has been hit with a string of delays since the initial punishment was handed out.
The case was held up in May this year when Buchan and Wiseman asked for more time to settle their accounts.
At a hearing in February, it emerged Buchan had a “substantial” amount of her assets frozen and that Wiseman had been declared bankrupt.
They have both relied on taxpayer-funded legal aid as the proceeds of crime case has rumbled-on.
Fiscal depute Gavin Whyte said yesterday: “In relation to both, they must inform the Crown and the court in three months how they will satisfy the order.”
Advocate Ross Taggart, who was representing Buchan and Andrew Ormiston, advocate for Wiseman, said they agreed with the sums set out in court.
Mr Ormiston said there was “no opposition” to the confiscation order after Sheriff Christine McCrossan granted it.
Procurator Fiscal for Specialist Casework, Jennifer Harrower, said in the wake of the case: “Carol Wiseman and Helen Buchan made false claims to entice vulnerable consumers into purchasing their products.
“In cases such as this, prosecution of a criminal offence does not mean the end of our involvement.
“We will use the laws available to us to ensure money obtained through crime is confiscated from those who do not deserve it and reinvested into the community.”
The case against Buchan and Wiseman first called at Peterhead Sheriff Court in February 2016 when both women admitted misleading their customers.
They had enjoyed huge success selling their products online, claiming their Secret Diet Drops and cider vinegar would make people feel less hungry.
In fact, the only secret was the complete lack of any substance that could contribute to the health of those taking them.
A small bottle was priced at £9.99 and the larger once came in at £35.
Users were advised to take 15 drops three times a day and stick to a specified eating plan.
It was claimed those taking part “have to be ready for the low calorie plan and drinking lots of water that you have to take along with the Secret Drop before you would notice any difference.”
But when asked to analyse the list of ingredients of the drops by the Press and Journal in 2016, the British Dietetic Association said there was “no evidence” they would contribute to weight loss “using the scientific data available at the moment”.
The lack of impact the paid for products would have add is thought to have been obscured by the success many customers enjoyed with the accompanying diet plan.
When Secret Diet Drops Ltd appeared at court, its owners admitted between July 23, 2013 and January 7, 2015 it falsely advertised and sold Secret Diet Drops claiming the drops would contribute, and were necessary to, help weight loss, when following an eating plan it provided.
The firm also admitted making claims about the cider vinegar’s health benefits between June 21, 2013 and July 23, 2013.
Buchan and Wiseman were fined and ordered to carry out unpaid work.