An online marketer that falsely claimed ties to Google Inc.
(GOOG) has been forced to stop operations as part of a Federal
Trade Commission action that also resulted in the defendants giving
up about $3.5 million in cash and other assets.
As part of a broader operation on scammers that bilk consumers
through a variety of schemes--the FTC initially announced a
complaint in 2009 against several defendants that allegedly sold a
bogus work-at-home product under names including "Google Money
Tree," "Google Pro," and "Google Treasure Chest."
By using the name and logo of the search giant and falsely
promising that consumers could earn $100,000 in six months, the
defendants lured consumers into divulging their financial account
information to pay a modest shipping fee for a work-at-home kit.
The FTC claims the defendants failed to disclose adequately,
however, that buying the product would trigger automatic monthly
charges of $72.21 for another product, and that those charges would
continue until the consumer took steps to cancel.
The complaint charged that the defendants violated the FTC Act
by failing to adequately disclose that consumers would be subjected
to monthly charges; by making false or unsupported claims that
consumers were likely to earn substantial income; and by falsely
claiming that they were affiliated with Google.
The settlement includes a $29.5 million judgment against
defendants Jonathan Eborn; Michael McLain Miller; Tony Norton;
Infusion Media Inc.; West Coast Internet Media Inc.; Two Warnings
LLC; Two Part Investments LLC; and Platinum Teleservices Inc.
A fourth defendant, Stephanie Burnside, is subject to a judgment
of $741,900, the FTC said. The defendants will give up cash and
other assets that include two cars, interests in a Harley-Davidson
Inc. (HOG) motorcycle and a boat, and a gun collection--which total
about $3.5 million. The unpaid portions of these judgments are
suspended based on the defendants' inability to pay.
Under the settlement agreement, which was proposed in the U.S.
District Court in Nevada, the defendants are banned from selling
products through "negative option" transactions---in which the
seller interprets consumers' silence or inaction as permission to
charge them. The defendants also are barred from making misleading
or unsupported claims while marketing or selling any product or
-By John Kell, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2480; email@example.com