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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Feds Sweep Colored Contact Lens Sellers

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Federal prosecutors Friday accused Halloween retailers of selling unregulated colored contact lenses that are popular with teens but may cause infection and blindness.

Twelve businesses, owners and managers were charged in six criminal informations in a sweep called Operation "Cat Eyes," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

All six informations accuse defendants of selling misbranded contacts without prescriptions.

Two of the complaints claim the lenses were contaminated with Bacillus cereus, which can cause infections that can cause blindness if left untreated.

Some retailers had set up shop during Halloween, when demand for decorative contact lenses is high among young adults and teens.

Halloween and Party Discounters was charged with selling adulterated contacts from a booth at the County Fair in Pomona.

Booth owner Mike Honabach, 45, of Highland, allegedly sold lenses tainted with the bacteria.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says decorative contacts should be bought with a prescription from a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Scott Smiledge makes hand-painted contact lenses for the FX television show "American Horror Story." He said that while cosmetic contacts are "fun" and "can be fantastic," they should be approached with caution.

"Just make sure you do it the right way," Smiledge said in a video commissioned by the FDA. "Make sure that you're buying from a place that is following the rules and you're buying lenses that have been handled properly, and that your eye doctor knows about and approves of it."

Honabach owns Intertrade Imports of Jacksonville, Fla. Intertrade manager Eunju Kang Savvidis, 53, was also charged.

Hong Kong-based online retailer Aspirational International was charged for selling cosmetic contacts through its website.

Cerritos resident Jung Rae Jo, 60, was charged with selling four pairs of contacts to two undercover FDA agents at his Westminster fashion store in October.

Young Kim, 51, of La Crescenta sold two pairs of contacts to an undercover FDA investigator at his Glendale T-shirt store, prosecutors said.

Doris Owusu Ansah, 54, the owner of a West Covina beauty salon, and Zinaida Khrimyan, 25, the owner of Halloween Superstore in Glendale were arrested for allegedly selling misbranded contacts. Store manager Patrick Abedi, 30, was also charged.

The defendants face up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. Prosecutors may seek up to $200,000 against the businesses.

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