The operators of a business opportunity scheme have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they defrauded consumers through the sale of a work-at-home program that purportedly provided consumers with their own websites that would enable them to earn a significant income by affiliate marketing with websites of well-known companies such as Prada, Sony, Louis Vuitton, and Verizon.
The settlement is part of a federal-state crackdown on scams that falsely promise jobs and opportunities to “be your own boss” to people who are unemployed or underemployed. Under the settlement, the defendants behind the operation, The Online Entrepreneur, will be banned from selling business and work-at-home opportunities.
According to an FTC complaint filed in November 2012, the defendants sold the “Six Figure Program” to consumers as a purportedly no-risk, money-back guaranteed opportunity to make money via their own website, falsely claiming that, for a $27 fee, they would enable consumers to affiliate with well-known companies’ websites and earn commissions. After purchasing the program, consumers learned that they had to pay $100 or more in additional costs just to set up their websites. The court subsequently halted the allegedly deceptive practices, froze the defendants’ assets, and put the companies into receivership pending a court hearing.
The settlement order announced today permanently prohibits The Online Entrepreneur Inc., Ben and Dave’s Consulting Associates, Inc., and David Clabeaux from selling business and work-at-home opportunities, misrepresenting that consumers are likely to earn money and misrepresenting any material fact about a product or service. They also are barred from failing to clearly disclose the terms of any offer before consumers provide billing information, and making a representation unless it is true and the defendants have competent and reliable evidence to substantiate the claim. In addition, the order prohibits these defendants from selling or otherwise benefitting from consumers’ personal information, and failing to properly dispose of customer information.
The order imposes a judgment of more than $2.9 million, which will be suspended when Clabeaux has surrendered real estate, personal property, and bank and investment accounts. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. Litigation continues against the remaining defendant, Benjamin Moskel.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the proposed consent judgment was 4-0. The consent judgment was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on March 13, 2014.
NOTE: Consent judgments have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
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 2,000 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. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
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Barbara E. Bolton
FTC’s Southeast Region