The Federal Trade Commission has charged the operators of an Internet-based business opportunity that promised substantial income to participants in an Internet shopping mall network with operating an illegal pyramid scam. The FTC will seek to bar the defendants from engaging in future pyramid operations, from making misleading earnings claims, and from providing others with the means to make deceptive claims for any multi-level marketing program.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the FTC alleges that since 2000, Tucson, Arizona-based NexGen3000.com (NexGen) and its principals marketed Internet "shopping malls" that they claimed would enable investors to earn substantial income and commissions on products purchased through the Internet. The malls contained a collection of links to retail Web sites maintained by merchants. The defendants allegedly advertised their business opportunity through the NexGen Web site, live presentations, and telemarketing calls, and maintained a network of affiliates to help promote and sell the malls. Consumers paid a registration fee to join the NexGen program, and most also purchased a "WebSuite" including the Internet mall and related goods and services. A "Basic WebSuite"cost $185, including the registration fee, and a "Power Pack WebSuite" cost $555. The FTC's complaint states that NexGen assured consumers that buying the "WebSuite" qualified them to earn significant commissions for every "WebSuite" sold. NexGen allegedly claimed that "each activated business center has the potential to earn up to $60,000 per week."
The FTC alleges that the defendants deceptively represented that consumers who participated in their scheme would earn substantial income, when in fact most consumers lost money in the operation. The complaint also states that the defendants provided deceptive marketing material to affiliates - providing them with the means to deceive others. The agency alleged that the defendants failed to disclose that a substantial percentage of participants would lose money, and that the scheme was actually an illegal pyramid. The FTC alleges that the practices violated the FTC Act.
The FTC has asked the court to bar permanently the corporate and individual defendants from engaging in the violations of the FTC Act alleged in the complaint. The FTC is seeking a permanent ban on the deceptive acts, and consumer redress for victims of the scam
The FTC vote to authorize the filing of the case was 5-0. The FTC complaint named NexGen 3000.Com Inc; Globion, Inc.; Infinity2, Inc.; David A. Charette; Jennifer K. Charette; Robert J. Charette, Jr.; Marta H. Charette; Stephen M. Diamond; Christine A. Wasser; and Edward G. Hoyt. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint 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, 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.
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
Andrea Foster or Chris Couillou
Southeast Region, Atlanta
(FTC File No. 012-3153)