LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - They call it a breakthrough in facial rejuvenation and you've probably seen the infomercials on television, but what you may not know is that "Lifestyle Lift" is under investigation by the Florida Attorney General's Office. Six local women claim they paid thousands of dollars for a procedure that didn't work.
Lifestyle Lift has more than 70 offices across the country, including one here in Fort Myers with two board certified surgeons on staff. Since 2001, more than 150,000 people have had the procedure, including 22,000 in Florida.
The Lifestyle Lift infomercial tells you the procedure will "transform your appearance." Even celebrity spokeswoman Debby Boone is shocked by how young the clients look. That's what finally convinced Martha Collins of Lehigh Acres to try Lifestyle Lift.
"It just sounded too good to be true," Martha told us as she showed us a picture of what she looked like before and now, after.
"I still got the turkey neck. I didn't get rid of that. I didn't get rid of nothing, all I got was pain and suffering," she claimed.
Martha is one of 34 people in Florida who filed complaints with the State Attorney General's Office. Five other women here in Southwest Florida are also included.
Only Martha would talk to us on camera. But all six woman complained to the Attorney General's Office.
One woman said she appeared better before the procedure and "the only thing lifted was my money."
Another said, "false advertising. After one year, procedure was entirely inevident."
And a third complained she, "was cut in places I did not agree to, left with permanent scarring."
We took these complaints to Lifestyle Lift, but because none of the people who complained would sign a release, the company says it can't comment on the specifics of their cases.
As for Martha, they did say she didn't come in for her 30-day evaluation and they were not aware of her concerns.
Dr. Stephen Prendiville is a facial plastic surgeon in Fort Myers. He says he has had patients who used Lifestyle Lift first and then came to him. His biggest complaint: how quickly the procedure is performed. Lifestyle Lift's website says the procedure typically takes about an hour.
"A one-hour procedure in a facelift type situation with a 65-year-old patient is generally not a good idea," Dr. Prendiville explained.
Lifestyle Lift sued Dr. Prendiville for comments he posted on "Realself.com," an online review website dedicated to plastic surgery. The case was dismissed in 2011.
Speaking of "Realself.com," Lifestyle Lift has a history with that website. In 2009 the company settled with the New York Attorney General's Office for $300,000 for filing fake reviews on the website.
The New York Attorney General's Office provided these emails from Lifestyle Lift managers. It appears to be directing employees to write good reviews of their service:
"Friday is going to be a slow day - I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client."
Another directed a Lifestyle Lift employee to, "put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had."
Lifestyle Lift says when their employees posted these comments the, "internet was still very new to us and the postings were not done properly as we did not identify that these postings were done by Lifestyle Lift employees."
The New York Attorney General prohibited them from posting certain types of content on the internet. Lifestyle Lift points out that the company has an "A+" rating with the Better Business Bureau in Michigan, where the company is headquartered and says the number of unsatisfied patients is very small.
None of that helps Martha Collins.
"I'm devastated. I think I looked better before than I do after," she told us.
The Florida Attorney General's Office opened the investigation more than two years ago and so far no charges have been filed. Lifestyle Lift says the company hasn't been asked for any information from the AG's office in more than two years.