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Thursday, February 16, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Traveling salesman in trouble over pitch

Times consumer-affairs Reporter

A traveling salesman violated a court order when he made a sales pitch last week in Seattle about free electricity from magnets, a car engine that runs on pickle juice, and other products, the state Attorney General's Office said.

The Attorney General's Office filed a petition Friday in Spokane County Superior Court against Dennis Lee, asking the court to impose fines of more than $100,000.

The petition is the latest in more than a decade of enforcement actions against the New Jersey businessman. Lee has been making payments on a $25,000 fine.

Lee is barred from selling any products to Washington residents and isn't allowed to make scientific claims about his products unless he has them confirmed by two independent scientists.

But last week he demonstrated several products to an audience of about 50 people in downtown Seattle. He poured steak sauce, mouthwash, pop and other liquids into a fuel tank and started up an engine. He advertised paint that could insulate walls and a device that "can burn ordinary tap water to cut, weld and braze metal."

Lee, who was scheduled to give a presentation in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday night, could not be reached.

Lee has claimed since the 1970s that he has a magnet-based machine that makes "free energy," but he has never been able to demonstrate it.

At least seven states have taken action against Lee. Washington first fined him in 1985, when he was promoting a "Solar Utility Network." In 2002, the state imposed $65,000 in fines and fees because Lee was seeking investors for a free-electricity machine.

Lee didn't pay the fines, and Assistant Attorney General Jack Zurlini Jr. said the state was working with the New Jersey attorney general to try to seize his assets when Lee agreed last year to begin making payments. The state agreed to reduce the fines to $25,000 and to accept monthly payments.

At last week's event, Lee seemed aware of the legal restrictions he faced. He claimed to be a volunteer for a company called Better World Alternatives and said he wouldn't benefit financially if the audience wanted to buy products or invest in the company. But Zurlini said that didn't make any difference.

"Mr. Lee was there selling products, services, and/or business opportunities," he said. "It doesn't matter whether it's on behalf of a company or not."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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