Charges Concern Kits to Grow Cosmetics Cultures : Trial Is Set for 'Endless-Chain' Suspect

Times Staff Writer

The trial of a Rosemead man arrested in connection with what Anaheim police termed "an endless-chain" investment scheme has been set for March 20.

Anaheim police arrested Zelbert Wallace Ritchie, 57, last month on a variety of misdemeanor fraud charges relating to a plan to sell investors kits to grow soured milk cultures for use in cosmetics.

The charges, filed by the Anaheim city attorney's office, include making misleading statements about the culture investments, failing to register a list of the company's principals with the state and misrepresenting the investment.

Ritchie's attorney and representatives of the Anaheim city attorney's office met Thursday in an attempt to settle the case without a full trial. But according to Deputy City Atty. Grover Merritt, the two sides could not reach agreement, setting the stage for the trial.

California is not the only state to attempt to halt sales of the milk culture kits.

However, efforts by the Kansas state securities commissioner to shut down nine companies promoting the culture were overruled by a Kansas state judge late Wednesday.

In that case, state District Judge James Buchele granted a temporary restraining order overturning a cease-and-desist order issued Tuesday by the Kansas securities commissioner. The securities commissioner contended that the culture-growing kits are unregistered securities and therefore the sale of the kits is illegal. The state attorney general's office said the national marketing program is an endless pyramid scheme.

But the judge said the constitutional rights of the culture companies had been violated because the cease-and-desist order had been issued before a hearing was held.

Craig Stancliffe, associate counsel for the securities commissioner, said his office intends to fight the judge's order.

Promoters say actress Jane Powell has agreed to serve as spokeswoman for a line of culture-containing cosmetics being manufactured by The House of Cleopatra Inc. in Palm Springs. A national television ad campaign is set to begin in early April, according to Morrie Winters, company president.

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