Beaufort News

Cancer Check America owner, manager sued by Illinois AG for consumer fraud

The owner and manager of a now-defunct Hilton Head Island business that offered preventative medical imaging are now accused of consumer fraud related to a similar business in Illinois.

The Illinois Attorney General's Office filed a complaint Thursday against Sheila Haddad and her son David Haddad for the alleged "unfair and deceptive business practices" of two businesses they ran in the Chicago area under the name Heart Check America.

Like Cancer Check America -- which ceased operating in May amid scrutiny and questions about its link to Heart Check America -- Sheila Haddad owned the business and her son managed it, offering free lung or heart CT scans in the hopes people would sign up for a package of examinations.

Both businesses primarily screened patients with no symptoms using computerized tomography scanning to detect and measure heart and lung disease, and colon and other cancers. Regulators in Colorado and Nevada cited Heart Check America for performing scans without doctor's orders.

Some medical experts have said both companies market scans to those who don't need them, with little proof the benefits outweigh potential harm.

Similarly, the Illinois Attorney General's complaint alleges Heart Check America manipulated consumers, using "high-pressure sales" to get them to sign up for a 10-year contract costing as much as $7,000, plus annual dues, for multiple scans that may not be medically appropriate.

The complaint also alleges :

  • Sales are based on the false premise that early detection always leads to better health.
  • Those selling the scans were not medically trained, and no medical provider evaluated patients prior to being scanned.
  • Consumers were not informed of the risks -- including radiation exposure, false-positive results, unnecessary expense and harm from further medical scans -- and got a false sense of security from false-negative results.
  • Test results were inaccurate and in a format unreadable by the consumer's physician, resulting in repetitive, costly tests.
  • The complaint says the Attorney General's Office has received 25 complaints against Heart Check since June 2010. The Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, Colorado and Nevada state regulators also have received complaints.

    The Attorney General's Office seeks to halt the company's activities and requests civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation if the court determines there was intent to defraud. It also seeks restitution for consumers and to have their contracts voided.

    A number for Sheila Haddad says her mailbox is full and not accepting new messages. Two calls Thursday to a number for David Haddad resulted in a busy signal.

    Follow reporter Tom Barton on Twitter at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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