Court-approved agreement bars Wealthperx, formerly Lotto Magic, from Iowa, based on what Attorney General calls “blatantly fraudulent” conduct
DES MOINES – Two out-of-state companies marketing a so-called money-making system must stop promoting the scheme in Iowa, through a court-approved agreement with Attorney General Tom Miller.
In the consent judgment, filed in Polk County District Court, District Court Judge David Porter ordered the companies and people behind Wealthperx, formerly called Lotto Magic, to stop promoting their money-making system in Iowa and refrain from any marketing directed to Iowa residents.
The defendants include Richard Dennis Moore, 69, of Crestview, Florida and his Florida company, Peppercorn Marketing Inc.; and Michael S. Caruana, 48, of Santa Monica, California and his California company, Revolutionary Money Making Concepts Inc.
In addition to the Iowa marketing ban, the defendants must pay more than $53,000 for refunds to about 300 Iowa victims identified in Wealthperx records.
“Our investigation revealed many blatantly fraudulent claims and testimonials,” Miller said. “The defendants constructed this scheme around a central lie, namely, that by becoming paying members of the Wealthperx system a participant would enjoy a steady stream of income. But our investigation showed that the money stream consistently flowed away from Iowans, not to them.”
A Consumer Protection Division review of company data for Iowa members found that they had sent Wealthperx a total of about $130,000, but had received payouts of only about $10,000.
Wealthperx promotional materials explain that the company buys Florida lottery tickets monthly for each paying member. The materials also urge members to recruit new members, in order to get a share of the new participants’ membership payments as well as a share of their lottery winnings.
“The money-making system can be made to sound pretty attractive, which is why hundreds of Iowans bought into it,” Miller said. “But what members actually experience doesn’t begin to match the claims.”
Miller alleges the Wealthperx marketing makes other misleading claims:
- Wealthperx claims that more than 40,000 people had joined its “success team,” without disclosing that most of them had lost money, dropped out, or both.
- Solicitation mailings fraudulently tell prospects that a membership slot in the Wealthperx system was being held open for them for 48 hours, but that a late response would result in the company passing along the slot to someone else in the same town.
- Glowing testimonials attest to recent financial success through the Wealthperx system to create the impression that many current participants received substantial monthly checks. In fact, however, defendants could not substantiate all of the income claims, and some financial gains that were described as recent or ongoing had in fact occurred many years ago, and involved individuals who had since left the program.
The Wealthperx marketing materials highlight the experience of George Stephens, described as a successful recruiter and money-maker whose continuing success could be easily copied by new members.
When the Consumer Protection Division asked Wealthperx to verify the success it attributes to Stephens in its marketing materials, the company said he had died. However, the division reached the 96-year-old Stephens at his North Carolina home. Stephens said he dropped his membership years ago, because the costs involved in recruitment did not make it profitable.
According to Miller, Iowans who fell prey to this scheme were disproportionately senior citizens. A sampling indicated an average age of 71 among the victims. The defendants have insisted they did not target seniors, although internal company emails used crude derogatory language to describe them.
The Consumer Protection Division obtained customer records from the defendants, so Iowans who lost money through the Wealthperx system do not need to file a refund claim and will be contacted about refunds.
TIPS FOR CONSUMERS:
- The harder marketers work at persuading you that they can sell you a guaranteed money-making system, the tighter you should clutch your wallet. Their real money-making system isn’t the one they want to sell you – it’s the money they’re making by getting other people to pay for an over-hyped opportunity.
- Income opportunities that require you to recruit more participants deserve extra skepticism. Whatever income is generated is typically concentrated at the top of the pyramidal marketing structure, and new recruits end up holding the proverbial bag.
- Testimonials are widely used by marketers because they can be very persuasive. When a consumer hears of someone “just like me” who is enjoying tremendous success, that may seal the deal. But remember that the success stories may be stale, atypical, or downright fabrications.
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 1-888-777-4590.