Seven individuals and eight companies they control have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges in a deceptive telemarketing operation that took millions of dollars from thousands of consumers who were trying to start home-based Internet businesses. The defendants have agreed to be banned from selling business coaching services and work-at-home opportunities.
As alleged in the FTC’s complaints, the defendants purported to offer consumers business coaching services, but those who signed up were left with no functioning business, little or no earnings, and heavily in debt. Using a variety of alleged deceptive sales tactics, the defendants falsely promised that their clients were likely to earn substantial income, that their training programs were personalized and open only to qualified participants, and that they needed consumers’ financial information to determine if they qualified. After consumers purchased the business coaching services, typically for thousands of dollars, they were targeted with more sales calls to buy more purported business services.
Some of the defendants allegedly provided other telemarketers access to their merchant accounts – an illegal practice known as credit card factoring – to process sales initiated by telemarketers that could not obtain merchant accounts themselves.
The defendants named in one complaint are Ari Monkarsh; Faraz Rouhani; Travis Thomas; Nathan Beeson; Kenneth Dickinson; Lift International LLC; also doing business as Lift International Enterprises LLC, Guidance Interactive, and GoGo Dropship; Professional Learning Institute LLC; Future Education LLC, also d/b/a Pinnacle Learning Institute and Pinnacle Group; Growth Strategy Solutions LLC, also d/b/a Advantage Education, Discover Education, Enterprise Education, and Growth Strategy Solutions Inc.; Advantage Education LLC; Discover Education LLC; and Enterprise Education Inc., also d/b/a Advantage Education.
The defendants in a separate complaint are Matthew Rasmussen; David Rasmussen; and Thrive Learning LLC, also d/b/a Business Education Department, Focus, Lightwave Web Builder, and Thrive Learning Institute. The Rasmussens and Thrive Learning sold the business to Lift International LLC in August 2013.
In addition to the bans imposed on the defendants, the settlements provide for monetary judgments that are partially suspended based on an inability to pay. The order against the Rasmussens and Thrive Learning imposes a $27 million judgment that will be partially suspended upon payment of $1.6 million and the surrender of certain assets. The order against Monkarsh and Lift International imposes a $29 million judgment that will be partially suspended upon payment of $200,000. The order against Rouhani, Thomas, Professional Learning Institute and Future Education imposes a $13 million judgment that will be partially suspended upon payment of $300,000. The order against Beeson, Dickinson, Growth Strategy Solutions, Advantage Education, Discover Education and Enterprise Education imposes a $10.5 million judgment that will be partially suspended upon the surrender of certain assets.
In each order, the full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated final orders was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for Utah entered the orders on June 7, 2017 and June 13, 2017.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
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FTC Northeast Region
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