Bogus Claims Of Google Affiliation Gave Scam ‘False Auru Of Legitimacy,’ FTC Says; Case Leads To $29.5 Million Judgment; Defendants Lose Cash, Cars, Motorcycle, Boat, Gun Collection

So, you want to plant the seed that your business “opportunity” is backed by a famous company or that the company approves of your use of its trade name in a domain name you registered?

Eight defendants in a fraud case filed by the FTC have been hit with a judgment of $29.5 million in a settlement with the agency. A ninth defendant was hit with a judgment of $741,900.

The case mixed financial fraud in the form of unauthorized charges being drawn from customers’ bank and credit-card accounts — and misuse of Google’s name to sanitize the scam, the FTC said.

The defendants were forced to give up assets that totaled about $3.5 million: cash, two cars, interests in a Harley Davidson motorcycle, a boat and a gun collection “in partial satisfaction of the judgment,” the FTC said.

Among those hit with the $29.5 million judgment were 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.

Stephanie Burnside was hit with the $741,900 judgment.

None of the defendants is able to pay the judgments, which will be suspended unless it is determined that they “have misrepresented their financial condition,” the FTC said.

A big part of the case was “bogus” claims of ties to Google, the FTC said. The agency brought the action last year as part of “Operation Short Change,” which was targeted at “scammers taking advantage of the economic downturn to bilk vulnerable consumers through a variety of schemes.”

Federal officials made the announcement today, even as members of an online “opportunity” known as MPB Today were claiming the purported grocery MLM was backed by the government and Walmart. Some MPB Today affiliates have used Walmart’s name in domain names. Meanwhile, affiliates also have used Walmart’s branding materials and even have recorded commercials for MPB Today on Walmart property.

Such dogs did not hunt in the case against in which bogus claims were made about Google, according to court filings.

In June 2009, the FTC advised a federal judge that “The defendants’ use of the term ‘Google’ in the defendants’ business names, product names, and Internet domain names and the defendants’ use of logos that are identical to or confusingly similar to the logo of Google Inc. and its Internet search engine create a false aura of legitimacy by suggesting that the defendants are affiliated with Google.”

Not even a disclaimer in small type by some of the defendants that there was no actual affiliation with Google spared them from the astronomical judgment, according to court filings.

The defendants did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement agreements.

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5 Responses to “Bogus Claims Of Google Affiliation Gave Scam ‘False Auru Of Legitimacy,’ FTC Says; Case Leads To $29.5 Million Judgment; Defendants Lose Cash, Cars, Motorcycle, Boat, Gun Collection”

  1. From 2009, the Texas temporary restraining order:
    http://www.oag.state.tx.us/newspubs/releases/2009/042209infusionmedia_pop.pdf

    There’s also a thread over at scam.com. Some blame the “victims” for not reading the T&C. Someone claiming to represent the company states that it isn’t a scam. Just like the Mr Creosote lawyer did for ASD. And GMT used the logos of large & famous companies. Just like MPB Today is doing.

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  2. Tony H: From 2009, the Texas temporary restraining order:
    http://www.oag.state.tx.us/newspubs/releases/2009/042209infusionmedia_pop.pdf

    There’s also a thread over at scam.com. Some blame the “victims” for not reading the T&C. Someone claiming to represent the company states that it isn’t a scam. Just like the Mr Creosote lawyer did for ASD. And GMT used the logos of large & famous companies. Just like MPB Today is doing.

    Hi Tony,

    Thanks for sharing the link. I hope folks will take the time to read the pdf, along with its accompanying evidence exhibits.

    I noticed some photos of checks that the investigator for the attorney general included as evidence.

    Patrick

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  3. Tony H: From 2009, the Texas temporary restraining order:
    http://www.oag.state.tx.us/newspubs/releases/2009/042209infusionmedia_pop.pdf

    I assume it was shortly after this that they had to ‘move’ to Utah.

    Tony HSome blame the “victims” for not reading the T&C.

    Well….that is one of the top ten excuses from the Scamming for Dummies handbook.

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  4. This news should send chills down the spine of the MPBToday members using Wal*Mart in their domain name, but I seriously doubt it. I doubt if they even know this is a no-no. It is also why I beileve the FTC will be the one to go after MPBToday before any other federal agency.

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  5. The only questions that remain are whether or not Wal*Mart decides to handle the misuse of their name on their own, hand it on to the relevant agencies or do both.

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