After trying for years to keep assets he acquired while deceiving consumers with false promotions and bogus business opportunity pitches, a repeat offender has agreed to turn over his Las Vegas home, valued at over $1 million, and give up his appeal of the Federal Trade Commission’s case against him.
The settlement announced today wraps up the FTC’s case against Richard C. Neiswonger, who twice has been held in contempt of court at the FTC’s request – first, for deceptively marketing business opportunities in violation of an earlier court order, and second, for failing to turn over assets to pay a multi-million-dollar judgment against him.
In April 2007, a federal district court held Neiswonger, his business partner William S. Reed, and their firm, Asset Protection Group, Inc., in civil contempt for violating a 1997 court order that prohibited them from deceptively promoting business opportunities and failing to disclose material facts to consumers. The court banned Neiswonger from selling business opportunities to consumers and telemarketing. The court also entered a $3.2 million judgment against him – the amount of his ill-gotten gains – and required him to transfer the title of his Las Vegas home to a court-appointed receiver within 20 days if he failed to pay the judgment in full.
Neiswonger never made the payment, and in September 2009, at the FTC’s request, the district court held him in contempt for a second time and ordered him to turn over the title to the house or face jail time. The court found that he had failed to deliver a marketable title to his home.
Under the final settlement order, Neiswonger will surrender the house in Las Vegas, valued at more than $1 million. The order requires his wife, Shannon Neiswonger, and any other people living in the house to move out and turn it over for sale by a court-appointed receiver. It also requires the Neiswongers to dismiss all related appeals and release any claims they may have against the receiver or the FTC, and it directs the receiver to sell the house to help pay the judgment. The FTC previously obtained Neiswonger’s $379,000 retirement account to help pay the judgment as well. As part of the settlement, Shannon Neiswonger, who was not a defendant in the FTC action, will be paid $100,000 from the proceeds of the sale of the house, which she owned jointly with Richard Neiswonger.
The Commission vote approving the proposed settlement order was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on January 11, 2011 and has been signed and entered by the court. Copies of the final order can be found on the FTC’s website and as a link to this press release.
Information for consumers about how to avoid business opportunity fraud can be found here.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated final orders require approval by the court and have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the stipulated order containing the settlement agreement are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers 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, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.