FTC Announces Major, Multiagency Sweep; Says Government Will Seize Assets Of Scammers; Heralds New Partnerships With Craigslist, Microsoft, Others To Combat Online Fraud

David Vladeck, FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission has announced a major sweep involving numerous companies and defendants — and a new partnership with Craigslist, Microsoft, Monster.com and CareerBuilder to combat employment and work-at-home fraud.

Meanwhile, the agency said it was working with AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly to keep America’s senior citizens’ pocketbooks out of the clutches of scammers.

Dubbed “Operation Bottom Dollar,” the sweep includes seven new civil cases against the operators of deceptive and illegal job and money-making scams, 43 criminal actions by the Department of Justice and 18 actions by state attorneys general.

A separate action by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is part of the sweep, and the FTC announced updates in four previous cases. “Operation Bottom Dollar” specifically targets “con artists who are preying on unemployed Americans with job-placement and work-at-home scams,” the FTC said.

“Employment and business opportunity fraud causes terrible hardship to those who are suffering the most in these difficult economic times,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West. “The Justice Department is committed to prosecuting those who defraud through false promises of employment or financial success.”

The days of getting away with posting bogus job and money-making offers online are coming to an end, said David C. Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Using  terse language, Vladeck said scammers should not get too comfortable with the money they’ve stolen.

“If you falsely advertise that you will connect people with jobs or with opportunities for them to make money working from home, we will shut you down,” Vladeck said. “We will give your assets to the people you scammed, and, when it’s appropriate, we’ll refer you to criminal authorities for prosecution.”

Monster.com, Careerbuilder, Bing and Craigslist will display FTC consumer education material to people who are using the companies’ Web sites to look for jobs, the FTC announced.

Charged in Operation Bottom Dollar were:

Government Careers Inc. – Jon Coover; Richard Friedberg; and Rimona Friedberg. Abili-Staff, Ltd. – Pamela Barthuly; Jorg Becker; and Equitron LLC. Darling Angel Pin Creations Inc. – Shelly R. Olson and Judith C. Mendez; d/b/a/Angel Pin Creations.

Entertainment Work Inc. – Jason Barnes and Racquelle Barnes; d/b/a Resource Publishing Co. Independent Marketing Exchange Inc. – Wayne Verderber, II, d/b/a National Data Management, N.D.M., Global Mailing Services, G.M.S., Independent Mailing Services, Independent Mailing Services Inc., I.M.S., Independent Shoppers Network, Independent Shoppers, Success At Home, Success-At-Home Mailing, IMEX, IMEX, Inc., and Continental Publishing Company.

Preferred Platinum Services Network – Rosalie Florie; d/b/a Home Based Associate Program and PPSN, LLC. and Philip D. Pestrichello, individually. Real Wealth, Inc. – Lance Murkin; doing business as American Financial Publications, Emerald Press, Financial Research, National Mail Order Press, Pacific Press, United Financial Publications, Wealth Research Group, and Wealth Research Publications.

“What makes job scams particularly insidious—and what makes today’s efforts so important—is that these scams most often exploit honest consumers who are trying to make an honest living,” said Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.

“Instead of making money, victims end up losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars,” Cordray said.

Other agencies involved in “Operation Bottom Dollar” include AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Tampa Field Office; Better Business Bureaus of Southern Arizona, West Florida, New Jersey, the Southland (Southern California), and Coastal, Central, & Southwest Texas; U.S. Attorneys offices for the Southern District of New York, New Jersey and Western District of Missouri; the attorneys general of Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service; Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, Securities Division; Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs; Ocean County New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs; and the Tucson Police Department.

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