A U.S. District Court Judge has found that the Federal Trade Commission has “demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits” against two of the defendants named in the FTC’s action against two companies and two individuals selling an investment business opportunity. The FTC alleged in its complaint that defendants John Stefanchik and the Beringer Corporation deceptively marketed and sold a business opportunity for buying and selling privately-held mortgage notes, commonly referred to as mortgage “paper,” through defendant Atlas Marketing, Inc., a telemarketing company, and its principal, defendant Scott B. Christensen. On January 3, 2005, United States District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez, of the Western District of Washington in Seattle, issued a preliminary injunction against John Stefanchik and the Beringer Corporation that prohibits them from making false and unsubstantiated earnings claims about their program and from making false claims that their program coaches have substantial experience in the paper business and are readily available to assist consumers. The preliminary injunction – which prohibits the challenged claims and requires reporting of the defendants’ financial transactions – will remain in effect pending the outcome of a trial on the FTC’s allegations.
In August 2004, the FTC filed charges against Stefanchik and the Beringer Corporation, based in Seattle, Washington, and Christensen and Atlas Marketing, Inc., based in Salt Lake City, Utah. According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants charged consumers as much as $5,000 to $8,000 for a program that purports to teach consumers how to make large amounts of money quickly by buying and selling mortgage paper. The defendants advertised and sold the program – which includes course materials, in-person seminars, videos, audio tapes, and other educational products and services – through direct mail, telemarketing, and the Internet. The complaint charged that the defendants made false and unsubstantiated earnings claims and that they would provide consumers with the services of a personal coach experienced in mortgage paper transactions who would be readily available to assist them.
At the time it filed its complaint, the FTC sought preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and consumer redress. The January 3 preliminary injunction applies to John Stefanchik and the Beringer Corporation. Scott Christensen and Atlas Marketing earlier agreed to a preliminary injunction.
Copies of the preliminary injunction are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC Matter No. 022-3246)
(Civil Action No. CV04-1852RSM)