PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) – A federal jury heard opening statements on Wednesday in the fraud trial of a retired doctor accused of selling fertilizer online as a weight-loss drug.
DNP is a yellow powder used in explosives, herbicides and fertilizers. It is actually a miracle drug for weight loss, the first chemical marketed in this way in the 1930s.
Unfortunately, it also killed many who took it, so it was also one of the first to be banned by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
That hasn’t deterred some desperate dieters and bodybuilders from seeking it out. The government accuses Dr. William Merlino of preying on them by encapsulating DNP and selling it online.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan Burns showed the jury a tweet from Merlino’s account advertising DNP for weight loss, but noting that it was labeled as fertilizer because it’s not legal for weight loss.
She said that in a secondary scam after his arrest, Merlino faked pancreatic cancer in an effort to avoid trial.
Merlino’s attorney called the bogus cancer accusations a “red runaway” and said the case was only about whether DNP had been mislabeled. He said it wasn’t because all the labels said ‘not for human consumption’.
The first witness was the chief clerk of the post office in May’s Landing, New Jersey, from which Merlino shipped the DNP. She said he was known there as “the yellow man” because his skin, hair and bundles were always covered in yellow powder.