The master at work

The master at work

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A performance by Sam Cohen at a Tribunal hearing in Sydney raises more questions about IHRB and the way it conducts its affairs. A woman named Lucy* attended a CTTT hearing on Thursday 29 July 2010, seeking a $1,000 refund from IHRB, being the deposit she had paid for a 12-month hair regrowth treatment. The hearing followed an adjournment in May, in the hope that Lucy and Sam Cohen could reach an agreement. Sadly, no agreement was reached, so the matter was heard on Thursday by a Tribunal Member.

Both Lucy and Sam (Samuel Faraj Cohen) took an Oath to tell the truth. Thereafter, the story began to unfold. Lucy told the Presiding Member that she had a pre-existing heart condition, and that she went to see Sam about her hair loss. She said that she had specifically asked Sam if his treatment had any side effects. Lucy said that Sam only mentioned to her that a rash on the scalp would be the only possible side effect. Indeed she was lucky to receive even that much information. In my case, Sam Cohen had told me that the whole treatment is herbal and safe. He did not even give me the warning notes that the compounding pharmacist had packed with the bottles of Minoxidil. Sam always withheld the warnings and tampered with dosages.

Anyway, upon Sam’s assurances, Lucy paid $1,000 as a deposit and she was given some of the products to take home. Then five days later, Lucy visited a doctor whose name appeared on Sam Cohen’s own list of doctors. Yet that doctor said that he no longer deals with IHRB’s treatments and that he no longer writes prescriptions for Sam’s treatments. The doctor advised Lucy not to proceed due to possible side effects, and especially in view of Lucy’s heart condition. The doctor also said that if Lucy were to insist upon a prescription for Sam’s treatment, the doctor would first require a disclaimer from IHRB. Smart man!

THE SUSPICIOUS EMAIL

That same day, Lucy relayed these concerns to Sam in an email. She told Sam that she no longer wanted to proceed. Mr Sam Cohen told Lucy that she was obliged to continue with his treatment and that she must pay the full amount. To allay her fears, Sam said that he would not give her any Minoxidil. Instead, he would give her the non-medical alternative. This is part of the IHRB contract. Sam’s crazy contract says that if a doctor refuses to prescribe the dangerous concoction of medications, the client is obliged to try Sam’s non-medical products.

Lucy told the Tribunal Member that Sam had told her about his ‘herbs & spices’, and that these would be safe to use. Lucy was not satisfied with this alternative solution because it was not supported by medical research. Lucy asked Sam to email to her the list of the ingredients so that she could check them with her doctor.

And this is where it becomes interesting. Sam Cohen had tendered an email in evidence, arguing that the email from Lucy was not as she had made out. So the spirit of Agatha Christie hovers inside the CTTT hearing room because Lucy noticed that the evidence that Mr Sam Cohen was submitting was strange. An email that Sam says was sent by Lucy, could never have been sent by Lucy. Why? Because it was not her email address. How could Mr Sam Cohen have an email in his possession that Lucy says could not have come from her because the email address was not hers?

Lucy told the Member that her email address ended in DOT-COM, whereas the email that Sam had presented ended in DOT-COM-DOT-AU.

If it were up to me, I would have called a halt to the proceedings until this matter could be fully investigated. Forensic evidence would have easily proved the truth behind this confusion which could have pointed to one of the parties lying or even perhaps acting fraudulently. Technology exists to really get to the bottom of this type of argument. How can it be possible for Sam to say that Lucy had sent an email with a suffix of .com.au? Someone is not telling the truth. Technical tools are available to trace this situation and to uncover any lies or fraud, if they had been perpetrated. There can be no other explanation for this. It is a black-and-white case of someone not telling the truth. Such email extensions are not matters of simple errors. It does not happen. Either Lucy has two email addresses which she has forgotten about, or Sam had created that new account or falsified the document, or some stranger had created a new email and had sent the email to Sam. There is an explanation, and it is easy to isolate. However, the explanation cannot be an error. It cannot be a typo. This points to something supremely suspicious. I am inclined to suspect Sam. He has lied to me many times. This is how he operates. Sam fabricates evidence. He has done it to me and to others who have contacted me. Maybe this is not the case in relation to Lucy’s situation. I do not know. But I do know that Sam had fabricated documents in relation to my contract with him.

Others have written to me to tell me that they, too, have experienced Sam’s penchant for forgery. I know it first-hand! Anyway, this matter was not pressed.

I know that Sam fabricates his own evidence, and now we have to really wonder what that email anomaly was all about and how it might sway a case, or how it might cast doubts over Lucy’s sad story.

THE GOODS ARRIVE

Lucy then told the Hearing that on the same day, after seeing the doctor and sending an email to Sam Cohen to ask for her deposit to be refunded, a box arrived to her home, containing the remainder of the shampoos and topical solutions (the lotion that is used on the top of the scalp). She sent it back un-opened, but Sam insisted that he could not accept returned products for fear of contamination. Now this is funny. The contract does provide this warning to clients, saying that once products leave the IHRB office, they cannot be refunded. However, this clause is not there to protect consumers from possible tampering. It is an underhanded clause that throws the goods at poor unsuspecting clients who are lumbered with useless products for which they are now forced to pay.

Sam told the Member that he never takes returned products for fear of contamination. What a joke. The very products he gave to me, were first compounded by his first pharmacist for someone else altogether! So I know first-hand that Mr Sam Cohen recycles products. So what’s he talking about? He does recycle products. Other clients of his have contacted me to tell me that Sam had agreed to take back some of their unused products in exchange for something else.

NO WARNINGS

Lucy told the Member that she would not have proceeded with Sam’s IHRB treatment had the initial questionnaire mentioned anything about the risks to those with a heart condition. The questionnaire to which Lucy referred is one that was given to me to fill-out while I waited at reception, during my first visit to IHRB in Pitt Street, Sydney. The questionnaire provides no warnings and asks silly, useless questions. Indeed, Lucy ought to have been told about the side effects.

In my case, even after I had signed-up and after I was given serious medications, Sam Cohen withheld the information sheets that were supplied to him by the compounding pharmacist. I went home to use his products without any of the appropriate warnings whatsoever.

Lucy said that had Sam or his documentation referred to the possible risks, she would not have signed on the spot, nor surrendered her $1,000 deposit.

Since the early stages of the dispute, Lucy went to her local chemist and asked for documentation about Rogaine, which is a Johnson & Johnson Minoxidil product used to help people suffering with hair loss. Lucy said that her chemist had highlighted to her that the information relating to Minoxidil warns consumers that one of the side effects includes those that are adverse to people with a heart condition.

SAM’S RESPONSE

The Presiding Member gave Mr Sam Cohen an opportunity to respond to Lucy’s allegations. Sam told the Hearing that he has been in Australia for forty years. He had worked for 33 years with Ashley & Martin, where he was a Director. He said that he was not happy with Ashley & Martin, so he left to start his own business.

In trying to defend his position, Mr Sam Cohen said that he spent one hour with Lucy during the original consultation and that he had provided her with all the information that is needed. He said that he has helped clients of all ages, ranging from children of seven, to elderly clients as old as 92.

Mr Sam Cohen said that Lucy had signed the agreement, and that she did not follow the terms of the contract, which state that a client must undergo his treatment, and if anything does not work, that the client is obliged to keep trying whatever Sam gives them. In other words, clients are obliged to become guinea pigs for Sam. Once in his clutches, clients have to use whatever he gives them, because clients are obliged to provide Sam with every opportunity to keep his money. Sam has no herbal product. He has no Indian Curries. Indeed I know that he does give some people a product that does not contain Minoxidil. However, dear reader, giving people water in a fancy bottle, just to wear out the client, hardly constitutes a herbal alternative. Ask him to show you the clinical trials on his supposed herbal treatment.

THE ALLEGED SCAM

In my opinion, the entire IHRB operation is a scam. I know this from first-hand experience. I was conned. I was lied to. However, Lucy might not have understood the elaborate scheme. So she was unable to defend herself properly. Sam’s dubious contract says that a client can only ask for a refund if the treatment does not work, only after persisting with Sam’s instructions, no matter how dangerous, for twelve months. Lucy was unable to pinpoint or fathom the inner workings of the unfair contract, so Sam made out that it was her fault for not giving his treatment a fair go.

Sadly, the main issues were now blurring. The real issues are that Sam did not give the client the proper warnings. Sam told me that his treatment was all herbal, using his Indian Curries. I later find out that his treatment is all about Minoxidil, Finasteride, Retin-A, and Loniten. A dangerous, non-approved combination of risky substances whose side effects were never explained to me. In my opinion, Sam is the king of Scam.

Alas, Sam was trying to distract the CTTT hearing by the fine print, even when bigger issues of malpractice were staring Lucy in the face, but she did not argue the salient points.

Sam was saying that he could not take products back. What about the fact that he lied to the client by withholding information that the law stipulates must be furnished with each Scheduled product? That he gave Lucy products that were Pharmacy-Only Schedule-2 products that neither Sam nor IHRB are authorised to handle?

So Sam was given leeway to argue that the client had signed the contract, that the client had taken the products home, and had received all the products which last for twelve months. What a distraction! These are products that the client cannot use. Products that should never have been given to her in the first place. Products that should not have been prepared without a doctor’s prescription (oh yes, Sam knows he needs a doctor’s prescription: why else did he send Lucy to the doctor for a prescription!).

Sam keeps forgetting to inform those listening to his smoke-&-mirrors tricks that although, as he puts it, Minoxidil does not need a prescription, that is only true if the Minoxidil is purchased from a Pharmacy who is licensed by the Heath Department. IHRB is not licensed. Even then, this is a distraction because Sam mixes other stuff in the bottle. In my case he had mixed Retin-A. This is a prescription-only medication. I walked out with it, without a doctor’s prescription. And it seems that Lucy was given products without a doctor’s prescription. A compounding pharmacist cannot be making Minoxidil for general sale. What were those bottles doing in Sam’s office? How could Lucy or I, walk in, say hello, pay, and walk out with Minoxidil? Such bottles can only be compounded for the client, personally, after a personal order. So what was he doing with generic bottles? Mine were made for someone else, and that is why the labels were peeled off at the bottom of mine. Compounded products must be made fresh to order. How and why were those bottles sitting in his office waiting for clients to walk in off the street?

Mr Sam Cohen gave Lucy bottles that he should never have had in his office.

Then Mr Sam Cohen told the CTTT that the Therapeutic Goods Administration had approved Minoxidil for up to 5% without a prescription. Why does he say this? John F Kennedy approved the space program to the Moon. What’s that got to do with the price of blue cheese?

The TGA has done lots of things. What has his statement got to do with Lucy? Nothing. It is misleading and distracting and irrelevant.

The TGA has not approved 5% for women! And what it approved does not contain Retin-A. And the TGA approval was given to Johnson & Johnson (Pfizer) after years of testing, and millions of dollars spent, and an 800-page report prepared, and a panel of over thirty scientists being questioned, and only after extensive clinical trials were conducted. And it was approved at 5% for men only!

Sam also told the Presiding Member that Lucy was given the 3% minoxidil. She should not have been given any percentage. Sam should not have had those bottles in his office. He is not authorised to sell them! He should not be giving them to people full stop, with or without a prescription! Some people are seriously allergic to Minoxidil. Did he establish Lucy’s tolerance? Did he give her the appropriate warnings that say that Minoxidil has been known to cause instant death? Did he tell her that one adverse side effect of Minoxidil is hair loss?

Besides, he said that he had given Lucy bottles that did not require a doctor’s prescription. What a con artist. Dear reader, please pay extra attention here: Why did Sam send Lucy to a doctor who happened to be on a list of over 200 doctors, printed by Sam and given to Lucy by Sam? If what he gave her did not need a doctor’s prescription, why did he send her to the doctor? To obtain a prescription for what? He wanted to cover himself because what he gave Lucy was illegal. And here is the illogical crunch: Sam says that he does not refund bottles once dispatched. Why did he send them to her, four days after she met with him? He had sent twelve months’ supply! If he was waiting on a doctor’s prescription to give her the hard stuff, and if what he gave her was the soft stuff, then what was he expecting Lucy to do with the twelve bottles now in her possession once her doctor had given her the prescription? If Lucy had obtained a prescription, what would have happened to the twelve bottles? Discarded? This is a fishy tale that needed better cross examination.

SAM HANGS HIMSELF

At that CTTT hearing on Thursday 29 July 2010, Mr Sam Cohen spoke a lot of hogwash. He said that pure Minoxidil does nothing. He is playing-down his crime. Minoxidil has been known to cause instant death. Is that called nothing? Minoxidil is a Scheduled poison, which he is not allowed to touch nor prescribe nor recommend nor sell!

He tells his clients that Minoxidil does nothing. He prints testimonials about this. He even put it in writing to me in an email. However, to me and to many others, he played-down Minoxidil and boasted that nothing in the world works without his Indian Curries.

Knowing that he dare not use this terminology (Indian Curries) at a CTTT hearing, Sam said that Minoxidil does nothing without his combination of Retin-A. And he said that Retin-A was Vitamin A.

Sam is hanging himself because Retin-A is a Schedule-4 prescription-only product that opens-up the scalp and allows more Minoxidil to enter the system. The medical information-sheet about Minoxidil says that this should not be done. The AMA (Australian Medical Association) has said that this must not be done. Sam gave me this combination of Minoxidil with Retin-A without a doctor’s prescription. This is illegal! And even with a prescription, it is not advised and warned against! His products were the cause of a painful rash, and they caused me to lose more hair at a faster rate than ever before.

WHERE’S THE VALUE?

Sam argued that Lucy had a range of products that are of a certain value. From my investigations, the IHRB Shampoos and Conditioners are nothing more than detergent that Sam lists at eight-times the market price.

The Tribunal Member asked Sam whether or not a client receives anything of value, other than the products. Meaning, if a client pays approximately $5,000 for a treatment, what is the client paying for? So Sam responded that clients receive 25 years of free check-ups. If the products are hardly worth $300 (Minoxidil at 3% and useless detergents), then why would someone pay around $5,000? Sam’s ads say that clients receive 25 years of free on-going service. This is a joke. Sam’s advice is useless and dangerous. This is no service at all. This is Sam’s way to keep a grip on clients. Besides, he says that his consultations are free, so what else does a client receive for $5,000? Nothing at all. He expects doctors to prescribe the medications so that the doctors shoulder the blame should anything go wrong, as it frequently does (and as it did in my case — although I had no prescription, yet Mr Sam Cohen tried to blame my doctors all the same, despite my doctors having nothing to do with it. Sam lied to the Department of Fair Trading, and said that my Doctors were to blame. How could they be? They refused to have anything to do with Sam and IHRB).

By the way, Sam will admit that he is the only sales person in his company. And he is 74 years old. So how can he take $5,000 for a 25-year service when he has no-one else in his company to run the alleged service? What happens after he retires? Will he refund the difference, due to not being able to fulfil his part of the contract?

Mr Sam Cohen told the Member that he has a Bachelor of Science. This is yet to be proved. I doubt it very much. And if he did have a certificate, it would be one that he had fabricated. Next time Sam mentions this, ask him to prove it.

P.S. Do you want to know why Lucy was given Minoxidil at 3% and not at 2%? Well, the 2% version is available from Johnson & Johnson from a pharmacy at a fraction of the price. Sam wanted to prescribe an odd dosage to make it difficult for someone like Lucy to compare his prices. Bedsides, where are the clinical trials that 3% is better than 2%? They do not exist! Ask him to prove this.

And why is Sam Cohen recommending percentages? He is neither authorised nor qualified to be prescribing anything or recommending anything.

* P.S. The name was changed to Lucy in this article to provide some privacy. This is not her real name. The CTTT is the Consumer Trader & Tenancy Tribunal whose website is here.

P.P.S. IHRB is the name of the Institute of Hair Regrowth and Beauty run by Sam Cohen of 105 Pitt Street Sydney. It is also written as Institute of Hair Regrowth & Beauty or Institute of Hair Re-growth & Beauty.

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