Before the hearing began, Paul Seelig, owner/operator of Great Specialty Products asked the court for a continuance due to his poor health and lack of time to prepare. His legal counsel resigned from the case late last week and Mr. Seelig claims to be very ill at this time. Judge Titus denied that request and the hearing began as scheduled.
NC Department of Agriculture Summary
The lawyers representing the NCDA&CS started off the hearing seeking a Preliminary Injunction against Great Specialty Products by sharing a large amount of information as to the investigation conducted and the number of complaints received by the state. There were a total of 25 complaints received to date against GSP where consumers reported getting sick from the supposed Gluten Free products being sold. Nine signed affidavits were presented to the court as evidence in the case and 2 live witnesses were heard. One of the affidavits was submitted by Dr. Anant B. Soni, a internal medicine and Gastroenterology expert who assisted the State with information on Celiac Disease and the Gluten Free diet. The State told the court of Paul Seelig's past troubles with the law and some of the other shady things he has been a part of. For example, in 2001/2002, Mr. Seelig was indicted in Montana with various counts of crimes ranging from wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, making false claims and making false statements. He was convicted via plea bargain on several of the charges and served several months in jail. Evidence was submitted where Mr. Seelig sent extortionary letters to a company involved in this case (Tribecca Oven) asking for money to be paid to him or legal action would be taken. Mr. Seelig was also shown to have acted under an alias of Jeff or Andrew Gleason and to have claimed various sicknesses in order to delay working with the State's investigation (things like H1N1, quarantined due to staph infection, cancer treatment and even heart attack). Mr. Seelig did not deny any of this information shared with the court. He also presented another fictitious letter from a Millersburg, Ohio Amish bakery called Rise'n Bakeries. This fake bakery was claimed to have been providing Great Specialty Products with Gluten Free baked goods since 1996. The State's investigation found no record of such company ever existing in Ohio.
The State called two witnesses, one a local consumer who was sickened by the bread and a representative from the NC Department of Agriculture. Both provided damning evidence against Great Specialty Products which were not refuted by cross-examination by Mr. Seelig. The details of the thorough and lenghty investigation by the Dept. of Ag were also shared with the court. The Dept. of Ag. was more than fair in their investigation and attempt to work with GSP. Constant stall tactics, lies and the uncooperativeness of Mr. Seelig was also shared with the court. Details about the products being tested by a lab at the University of Nebraska (FDA facility) were also submitted to the court. All tests showed that Great Speciality Products supposed Gluten Free bread actually contained >5,000 PPM. The investigation revealed that GSP was buying regular bread products from a company in NJ called Tribecca Oven and repackaging the products as GF.
Great Specialty Products Defense Summary
Paul Seelig had more than a fair opportunity to present evidence is his defense but was unable to do so. He had numerous chances to cross examine both witnesses and even called his own witness. His lone witness was a GSP employee who worked at the "repackaging facility". Paul Seelig asked the witness a few questions and then abruptly stopped after she gave her honest and condemning answers. Two questions in particular were crucial to the hearing - Mr. Seelig asked his "employee" whether she ever noticed Tribecca Oven products at their facility (a.k.a Paul's house in Durham) when she was preparing Gluten Free bread orders to which she replied "I never really paid attention." Mr. Seelig also asked her if Great Specialty Products indeed ordered their Gluten Free bread products from a company called Rise'n Bakeries in Millersburg, Ohio to which she replied "I don't know". Not even his own employee would defend him. The State's lawyers quickly cross-examined the employee and asked her to read an invoice which details where Great Specialty Products purchased bread from Tribecca Oven. Case closed basically at that point.
Preliminary Injunction Granted - Great Specialty Products is Toast (pun intended)
UPDATE 2/2 @ 8PM
The story was shown by NBC17 during it's evening news tonight. Click here for the link and video. During the story, they said that Mr. Seelig collapsed while being taken into custody and was taken to WakeMed for treatment. From this WRAL story, he was later brought back to the magistrate's office and charged with six
UPDATE 2/3 @ 8AM
Click here to read a recap from the News & Observer. Huge thanks to Andrea Weigl from the N&O for helping me shed light on this important story for our community! I've also uploaded his mug shot as well. Beware if you ever see this man.
UPDATE 2/3 @ 2PM
I spoke with someone at the Wake County Courthouse a few minutes ago and they said this hearing has been moved to 2/24/2010 @ 9am. No courtroom has yet been assigned.
UPDATE 2/4 @ 8AM
As ordered by the Court, the Web site address for Great Specialty Products has been removed.
UPDATE 2/5 @ 9AM
Story picked up by Celiac.com, one of the most read Web sites dealing with Celiac or Gluten Free living.