Eva Knott 10:44 a.m., May 18
Guess Who's San Diego's Newest Author: Michael Ellis of Metabolife, Writing from Prison
Michael Ellis, the former head of Metabolife, is at Taft Federal Prison in California until mid-February. When he gets out, he will give interviews about his new self-published book, "The Metabolife Story," which is, he says, about "The Rape of Cinderella." He was sentenced to six months last June, despite efforts of his attorney, Charles La Bella, to keep him out. Ellis and his company had sent a letter to the Food & Drug Administration, claiming Metabolife's product had not generated health complaints from consumers. That was not true. Ellis pleaded guilty. In 1988, Ellis, a former cop, had been arrested for making methamphetamine. Ellis's co-defendant got five and a half years in prison, but Ellis cooperated with authorities and only got probation. Along with a third person, they founded Metabolife, which peddled an ephedra-based product through multi-level marketing. It advertised heavily; Ellis became an establishment darling despite his past. In November of 2003, an Internal Revenue Service affidavit was unsealed. It charged that Ellis and his two company co-founders had skimmed money out of the company and stashed it in offshore financial institutions. One of the three, Michael Bradley, was sentenced to prison for tax evasion in 2006. The government banned ephedra. Metabolife went bankrupt in 2005. Ellis claims in his book that the Metabolife product "had cut into the profits of the nation's most powerful pharmaceutical companies," and therefore the FDA intervened in the companies' behalf. The book claims that ephedra is "safe and effective."