Two persons who operated a business opportunity scam have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they tricked more than 1,300 consumers into paying between $5,000 and $25,000 for a bogus business opportunity.
The settlement is a result of last year’s Project Fal$e Hope$, an FTC-led effort that targeted bogus business opportunities and work-at-home scams, producing more than 100 law enforcement actions by the FTC, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and law enforcement agencies in 11 states.
In November 2006, the FTC charged Business Card Experts, Inc. d/b/a BCE Media, BCE, Inc., Scott R. Boardman, and Stewart P. Grandpre with using false and deceptive earnings claims and phony references to lure consumers into buying dealerships to sell business cards and other materials produced by BCE. Using Internet and classified advertisements, telemarketers, and income projection spreadsheets, BCE claimed that consumers could earn $150,000 in their first year and recoup their initial investments within three to five months. In May 2007, the FTC named Boardman’s wife, Kelley P. Boardman, as a relief defendant to ensure the recovery of assets stemming from the business that were held individually by her or jointly with her husband.
Under the proposed settlement orders, judgments of more than $16 million against the original defendants, and an order of disgorgement of more than $3.5 million against the relief defendant, will be suspended once they have relinquished assets subject to an asset freeze, including Scott Boardman’s accounts in financial institutions totaling approximately $5 million, the Boardmans’ condominium in Florida, and the balance of Grandpre’s accounts in financial institutions totaling more than $35,000, as well as Grandpre’s two snowmobiles, a snowmobile trailer, and a motorcycle trailer.
Under the proposed settlements, Scott Boardman and Stewart Grandpre are permanently prohibited from making material misrepresentations to any potential purchaser of any goods or services. Boardman is permanently banned from engaging in or benefitting from any aspect of commerce involving business ventures or investment opportunities, and from telemarketing or assisting others engaged in telemarketing. In connection with the sale of business ventures or investment opportunities, Grandpre is permanently prohibited from making misrepresentations, including the potential earnings, the number of investors, the fact that anyone has invested or can report about their investment experience, or failing to disclose any personal relationship with an investor or consideration he has promised or paid them. Grandpre also is prohibited from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and, in any telemarketing business he controls or has a majority interest in, from failing to take steps to ensure that all telemarketing personnel comply with the order. Both Boardman and Granpdre also are permanently prohibited from using the name, address, account numbers, or other identifying information of any consumer who purchased business ventures or investment opportunities from them.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the stipulated final orders was 5-0. The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
NOTE: These stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute admissions by the defendants of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the proposed stipulated final orders 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 and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.