Candyce Johnson's quick-weight-loss and work-at-home signs were multiplying along Gilbert roads faster than calories in a candy factory.
On Tuesday, Municipal Judge David Phares slapped Johnson with a $1, 500 fine and threats of up to 100 days in jail if another one of her ''I lost 40 pounds'' testimonials is taped to another Gilbert light pole during the next three years.
The signs violate town zoning laws and have become such a nuisance in recent months that municipal inspectors are confiscating hundreds every week, code enforcer Mike Palumbo said.
When his inspector went to Johnson's Mesa home Friday to write the sign citation, ''there was a pickup truck in the driveway loaded with signs, '' Palumbo said.
He estimated that Johnson was staking or taping 100 signs a week throughout Gilbert.
Johnson's illegal signs are all over Mesa as well, said that city' s code enforcer, Bill Petrie.
Johnson has been cited by Mesa three times during the past two years for code violations, he said. The fourth violation is considered a criminal misdemeanor under that city's laws, and Mesa is preparing to file the more serious charges against Johnson soon, Petrie said.
Under the terms of her Gilbert sentence, Johnson will get a refund of half of her fine payment if she erects no signs in the town for the next three years.
Calls placed earlier to numbers printed on several Gilbert-area quick-weight-loss signs were answered with almost identical recorded messages that did not identify the company. All referred to ''my friend, Candice, who lost 68 pounds.''
Messages left at some of those numbers were returned by individuals who said they were Herbalife distributors and that ''Candice'' lives in Mesa.
Los Angeles-based Herbalife International markets nutritional, weight management and personal care products only through a network of independent distributors.
Johnson answered the telephone at her Mesa home Tuesday but said only, ''No comment, thank you,'' before she hung up.
#1. "RE: SPAMer gets $1500.00 fine" In response to Reply # 0
It appears that HerbaLife has linked itself to the distributors even though they claim to be independent of them. By Herbalife officials requiring the cited distributors to sign ''declarations'', they have implicated themselves as being vicariously responsible for the crime the distributor committed. This could be the basis for the class action suit brought about by C.A.U.S.S.
''Word has gotten out,'' said Mike Palumbo, Gilbert (Arizona)code enforcement director. ''The signs are gone.'' Gilbert took a tougher stand against offenders, citing Harshberger' s associate Candyce Johnson with criminal misdemeanors for tacking signs in that municipality. Johnson was fined $1,500 and placed on three years' probation. If she tacks up a sign in Gilbert from now until 2003, Johnson will go to jail for a month, the ruling says.
Palumbo credits the Los Angeles-based Herbalife corporation with helping to stop sign blight. Corporate representatives wrote to all distributors who were cited and reminded them that they must obey local laws.
Herbalife officials also required the cited distributors to sign ''declarations'' promising to remove illegal signs and obey local laws.