As Zeek Apologists Solicit Funds And Plant Seed They’ll Sue SEC, Guest Columnist Asks, ‘Whose Lawyer Is This Anyway?’

DISCLOSURE: Gregg Evans, a longtime member of the antiscam community, is a longtime PP Blog contributor. He was not compensated for this column, and his views are not necessarily the views of the PP Blog.

Whose Lawyer Is This Anyway?

By Gregg Evans

A group of Zeek Rewards’ affiliates claim they have retained SNR Denton to do, well, something about the SEC taking over Rex Venture Group, Zeek’s corporate parent. What they intend to do is a mystery at this time. You see, Rex Venture Group, and with it Zeek, is dead. Nothing left but the shell that is in possession of a court-appointed receiver.

There can be no resurrection here: Paul Burks, the previous owner has turned the company over voluntarily to the receiver and, under the terms of the consent judgment, he cannot change his mind, he cannot appeal, he cannot argue that he didn’t violate securities laws and he can’t reboot the company under a different entity.

Zeek is no more: All that’s left is to gather up all the money and distribute what’s left back to those that it was stolen from.

The first problem with this is that not all that was stolen can be recovered, a part of it is going to be spent in the effort to return it and not everyone lost, which means some people won. Fairness, and by the way the law, says that those winners should have to return not only their ill-gotten gains, but in fact they should also return part of their original investment so that they proportionately bear the same loss rate as everyone involved.

In short, if the average “investor” is only going to recover $30 of the $100 they sent in, why should someone who sent $10,000, and profited in the end, only have to return their net winnings? It’s only fair that they should in fact have to return all their profits, but also 70% of their contributions, so that they bear the same loss as everyone else. If you sent in $10,000 and didn’t take out a dime, I think you’ll see the logic there. If, on the other hand, you were among the early investors who made a sizable profit, you may think differently.

Zeek presented in online pitch as “Passive Income!” opportunity.

It was once claimed that some affiliates were “earning” over $1 million a month from Zeek. If you’re a big winner, you might be quietly hoping that the receiver isn’t going to try to get anything back from you and you might be thinking that if he does, you might be wise to get an attorney to do everything legally possible to prevent any of your “profits” being taken from you to be added to the pool of funds eventually refunded to the people who weren’t as lucky as you. Well and good. I don’t agree with you, but then again, I wasn’t getting a million dollars a month in Zeek “profit sharing.” You’re certainly entitled to the best legal talent you can pay for.

Ah, but you’re too greedy to even accept that. No, you’re not going to use your own money to get that very pricey legal team working to keep you from losing money in the Ponzi scheme like almost all the others, you want the losers to contribute to a fund to pay your lawyers.

That’s chutzpa, Sparky.

The names so far mentioned as being behind this legal effort are hardly innocents. Among them are some names very familiar to those of us who follow online investment frauds, Ponzi schemes and MLM hucksters. These are the big recruiters. They pimped this scam, flaunted the money they were raking in, money that was ultimately stolen from their own downlines. Now they’ve cranked up their downlines, incited the victims and are shouting from the Internet hills about the injustice of the evil government shutting down their favorite scam, because, after all, it was still paying.

Never mind the $3 billion deferred liability that Zeek Rewards had only $225 million to pay. Never mind that only 2% of Zeek’s revenue came from an actual business and that 98% of the money paid out in the end was coming from new money paid into the affiliates programs. (The very definition of a Ponzi scheme.)

I’d venture you’d be a little less admiring of Paul Burks if the SEC, Secret Service and North Carolina Attorney General had not investigated this scam and it had collapsed of its own weight a few weeks or days later than the SEC action. There were signs that Zeek was in fact about to implode in the very near future anyway. Had that happened I’d expect a few of you would be raising complaints as to why the authorities had let the scam continue when they knew about it and had been investigating it. (Search “CMKX Scam” for an example of that.)

But with apologies to Arlo Guthrie, that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I’m here to talk about your lawyers, and how you’re trying to get the people whose stolen money you have, to pay lawyers so you don’t have to give any of that stolen money back. First, you’re asking people to send the money to you, not to the lawyers. Second, you’re telling them to please not call the lawyers.

This raises a few issues. To begin with, if the people involved lost money they can of course take advantage of the tax code to at least save on their taxes. They could also, if they retained counsel in relation to their business deduct that money, too. They cannot deduct any contribution they make to someone else’s legal bills.

In order for them to be able to say they paid a lawyer in relation to a business expense, the IRS is pretty insistent that they paid lawyers, not paid someone else who paid a lawyer, especially when the lawyer in question won’t even take your calls. I’m not an attorney myself but I’m pretty certain that some ethical rule somewhere says you have to take calls from your client. Which brings us to another thing:

Who is the client, and what is the client’s interest?

In a solicitation letter published on the Internet, the people soliciting donations say that the law firm will only communicate with 12 people. Forgive me if I take that to mean that only those 12 people are formally the clients represented, and that means that the attorney’s in question MUST represent those 12 people and ONLY those 12 people, and any interest any other people may have that is against the clients are by default adversarial.

So if, for instance, those 12 people were all net winners wishing to avoid a clawback action, hundreds of thousands of investors who lost would be the enemy, and by the tenets of the legal profession, said lawyers would be opposed to their interests in any conflict. There were early reports of over a million investors in Zeek Rewards. At a later news conference, the receiver said that number may well be over 2 million.

Mathematically speaking a Ponzi scheme results in at least 88% of participants who are net losers, a percentage that rises the longer a scheme continues, so of the 2 million, 1,760,000 people are likely net losers here. But these lawyers are only looking out for the 12, who I’ll bet are all net winners.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that all of them are big-time winners; at least one had a video posted showing off a new luxury home he implied was paid for with Zeek Reward profits. And they want the losers to pay for their lawyers, because after all, Zeek was still paying. There was over $225 million left in the till and if the evil government had just minded their business they could have gotten a pretty good chunk of that, too.

So, am I wrong? I’m talking now to the 12 people who are allowed to call the lawyer, and to the lawyer, too for that matter. I think this is rotten to the core, but prove me wrong. Make public the retainer agreement between whoever the clients are and SNR Denton.

If you’re good enough and shameless enough to get your victims to pay for your lawyers, good on you, but I think you owe it to the people you’re asking to pay for it to show them just exactly what they’re paying for, and whose interest is being represented here.

Oh, and since you’re telling people to pay you, and not the lawyers, and since that means they can’t deduct it on their taxes, I ‘d like to offer my own opinion that any money you get is regular income as far as the IRS is concerned, and you’d better report every penny of it as such.

About the Author

44 Responses to “As Zeek Apologists Solicit Funds And Plant Seed They’ll Sue SEC, Guest Columnist Asks, ‘Whose Lawyer Is This Anyway?’”

  1. Great article, Gregg. I see you didn’t mention Todd Disner(Diamond Affiliate) by name (video about his new $500,000 condo) so I will. I have no problem talking about him and his not-a-lawyer friend, Dwight Schweitzer. After all, they were going to get the ASD forfeiture case completely over turned and get ASD restarted. Might be difficult with Andy in prison.

    Disner and Schweitzer took a page from their own playbook and once again asked for other people to fund their idiotic attempts to overturn already signed off and decided legal issues. Makes me wonder if Dwight ever really was an attorney; if he was, he was definitely not a good one, in my opinion.

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  2. I am not Don: to play to to overturn already signed off and decided legal issues. Makes me wonder if Dwight ever really was an attorney; if he was, he was definitely not a good one, in my opinion.

    I don;t think they’re trying to overturn any aspect of the already final judgement. I’m told by a few attorneys that any first year law student would know that’s not going to happen. I think that the goal is indeed to prevent and/or minimize any clawback action against the 12 clients.
    Assuming that the million a month claim is true, and the people who were cashing those checks are indeed the 12, these scumbags have $700,000 a month to protect here. That’s a lot of money. Like I wrote, I do think they’re entitled to the best legal help money can buy, and they can surely afford it, but it just infuriates me that they don’t want to pay it themselves, they want the people who would be the ones to get it back to pay for it.
    If I’m right, and the goal of the the clients here is to preserve their own profits, I think that needs to be disclosed. Hell, my old convicted felon friend might even be embarrassed by this one.

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  3. And just for the record, I’d suggest you DO call the lawyers, if you’re paying them, they should tell you so.

    Here, in case you want to know….

    SNR Denton
    1111 Brickell Avenue
    11th Floor
    Miami, FL 33131-3122
    United States of America

    T +1 786 777 7005
    F +1 202 408 639

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  4. Gregg:

    I found fascinating your thoughts that “Clawbacks” can include sharing in a percentage of the losses, not just the ill gotten gains.

    Is this something that has happened before in other similar cases?

    Sure hope so and sure hope the receiver executes that option!

    ARWR

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  5. ARWR: Gregg:I found fascinating your thoughts that “Clawbacks” can include sharing in a percentage of the losses, not just the ill gotten gains.Is this something that has happened before in other similar cases?Sure hope so and sure hope the receiver executes that option!ARWR

    In the CEP case, the original suits against the winners included that formula. The problem is, in that case, is that most of the cases were settled for pennies on the dollar, one, for $140,000 was settled for just $10,000 which left the person involved in profit to the tune of $139,000. That was a travesty, but I can always hope…

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  6. Sorry, a typo above, the mentioned settlement left the person in profit to the tune of $130,000 give or take, not $139,000.

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  7. Many good points…from a legal standpoint, this is a “gray” issue considering that many may believe they are creating an attorney-client relationship by donating $20.

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  8. Ponzitracker: Many good points…from a legal standpoint, this is a “gray” issue considering that many may believe they are creating an attorney-client relationship by donating $20.

    If they don’t get a signed retainer with their name on it, they’re not the client and are not entitled to privileged communication.

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  9. Gregg:
    If they don’t get a signed retainer with their name on it, they’re not the client and are not entitled to privileged communication.

    For the most part, true (I’m an attorney). A retainer is a sum of money given to secure representation; I think you’re alluding to a engagement letter. Further, at least one court has held a lawyer liable on a theory of implied representation. See Parker v. Carnahan, 772 S.W.2d 151, 157 (Tex. App.Texarkana 1989, writ denied);(” . . . further, an attorney may be held negligent when he fails to advise a party that he is not representing them on a case when the circumstances lead the party to believe that the attorney is representing them.”).

    Especially if, as you reference above, the donations are simply funding the cause of 12 people who would be the only people entitled to share in any recovery.

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  10. One more reason this revive Zeek campaign is nothing but word games to cover up raising of money, which cannot be guaranteed to go to where they say it would.

    And note the shifting goalposts… Craddock / Kettner even admited that they’ll use “what’s left” of the money to rehability Zeek’s image.

    Yeah, right.

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  11. ARWR,

    The supposition on clawbacks being all of the gains plus a portion of the originally invested sum falls under the fiar treatment guidelines where at least in theory the law is designed to treat all victims of the fraud equally (and that would in theory include the “victims” who came out ahead as well). All such victims are to receive equal treatment, which means that the winners must return their winnings plus a share of their original investment. As Gregg pointed out, ~88% of the participants in these ASD-like Ponzi schemes lose money (see old articles in the PP blog for more details, or at Eagle Research). If you consider 2 types of victims, what do you do??

    1. A person who loses 100% of what they put in
    2. A person who loses 25% of what they put in because they did receive some payback from the Ponzi (compliments of the investments of person #1)

    Since both 1 and 2 are net losers, they will presumably get something back in the end proportional to what their loss was. However, that treats two loser victims unequally. In reality, 2 has received illegally gotten gains that were in fact provided by person #1. Thus, person #1 suffers disproportionately to person #2, and that’s what the fair treatment principle is designed to address. In theory, it is easy to see that person #2 may well have to PAY MORE into the receivership fund for redistribution, even though they were a net loser (if for example the recovery were only 20% or so). It may not seem fair, but it is. In practice, it is highly unlikely that the receiver would ever try to claw back funds from a net loser.

    The tax liability issues are far more fun……..

    ARWR: Gregg:I found fascinating your thoughts that “Clawbacks” can include sharing in a percentage of the losses, not just the ill gotten gains.Is this something that has happened before in other similar cases?Sure hope so and sure hope the receiver executes that option!ARWR

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  12. Even Kevin Thompson chimed in, and agree with Gregg’s position on Troy’s Blog.

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  13. Entertained: Entertained

    I am very grateful for your participation in this thread, Entertained.

    Thank you.

    Patrick

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  14. One of the things I had a problem with in the CEP case was the settlements. First, the receiver took into account if a proposed settlement would impose a financial hardship on the people he was suing. Some of them may have been innocents who just made a profit, but some were at the time high profile names, Shad Foss settled for an amount that left him over $20,000 in profit because to take more would have left him in poverty, likewise Troy Winters (a pastor of a church not far from where I live) settled a $65,000 claim for $20,000, again, because to take more would have imposed on him. I say screw them, my goodness $40,000 was more than the average victim makes in a year and this dirtbag got to KEEP that much, if I had been in charge he’d be homeless now. (Shad Foss was later involved in other scams, Troy Winters also showed up on a the list of participants in a few scams).
    And another thing, if I made the rules, all of the restitution applications would have a question about how other scams you have made claims on, or had claims made against you on, and I find some standard to keep the pimps from getting refunds or more importantly from getting any settlement to leave them in profit, just because they’d likley lose their home if they had to pay it all back. I’m just funny that way when the victims list usually has a few people who have lost homes, life savings etc…

    I’m in a bitter mood today, somehow knowing that Andy Bowdoin is going to die in prison isn’t enough for me, since they closed the Dry Tortuga Prison farm in the Florida keys just prison isn’t enough.

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  15. Sickening that those who won are now trying to get the losers to pay their legal bills so that they can keep their winnings.

    Great idea from Gregg – if you have paid money to these guys, call the lawyers and ask them if you yourself are being represented by them.

    I’ll bet they either refuse to answer or say no.

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  16. As we all know, the ASD Justice lawsuit was little more than an attempt at Discovery, something the government saw for what it was and moved to stay discovery until their Motion to Dismiss was decided. Well, that was decided today; Judge Rosemary Collyer dismissed their idiotic lawsuit.

    The crap they are trying with this “war chest”, which according to rumors has already reached around a Million dollars, should he treated much the same as the ASD Justice gathering if money for some fictional legal battle. What it is is Conversion, as most of the money will never see the light of a law office.

    I hope that all of these bottom feeders get what they should, a visit from the IRS for undisclosed incomes fro the war chests and for what they took out of Zeek!!!

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  17. Gregg: Shad Foss was later involved in other scams

    Here’s part of an email Foss sent out for AdViewGlobal, the ASD knockoff and another 1-percent-a-day scam:

    _________________________________________________________

    That means $500 turns into $1500 instantly!

    $1000 turns into $3,000 instantly!

    $2500 turns into $7,5000 instantly!

    $5000 turns into $15,000 instantly!

    _________________________________________________________

    Background: http://patrickpretty.com/2009/04/07/tuesday-news-and-notes-asd-avg-noobing/

    Patrick

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  18. CEP was, legally, very different. The receiver took the company into bankruptcy and pursued the ill gotten gains under the insider payments clause. I sincerely hope that by going the way of a receiver and clawing back payments under unjust enrichment is not as forgiving.

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  19. Thanks Entertained for the more extensive explanation.

    I fully understand the logic and just hoping against hope that is the formula that will be applied to the “winners” at Zeek.

    If they have to give back their winnings PLUS share in the losses it might finally begin to have a bit of a chilling effect on participants (but maybe not, LOL)

    I agree with Gregg, too, that hardship should not be a factor in clawbacks. If you want to play the game you have to suffer the consequences. Again, such action COULD have a potentially chilling effect on future participation.

    ARWR

    Entertained: ARWR,The supposition on clawbacks being all of the gains plus a portion of the originally invested sum falls under the fiar treatment guidelines where at least in theory the law is designed to treat all victims of the fraud equally (and that would in theory include the “victims” who came out ahead as well).All such victims are to receive equal treatment, which means that the winners must return their winnings plus a share of their original investment.As Gregg pointed out, ~88% of the participants in these ASD-like Ponzi schemes lose money (see old articles in the PP blog for more details, or at Eagle Research).If you consider 2 types of victims, what do you do??
    1. A person who loses 100% of what they put in
    2. A person who loses 25% of what they put in because they did receive some payback from the Ponzi (compliments of the investments of person #1)Since both 1 and 2 are net losers, they will presumably get something back in the end proportional to what their loss was.However, that treats two loser victims unequally.In reality, 2 has received illegally gotten gains that were in fact provided by person #1.Thus, person #1 suffers disproportionately to person #2, and that’s what the fair treatment principle is designed to address.In theory, it is easy to see that person #2 may well have to PAY MORE into the receivership fund for redistribution, even though they were a net loser (if for example the recovery were only 20% or so).It may not seem fair, but it is.In practice, it is highly unlikely that the receiver would ever try to claw back funds from a net loser.The tax liability issues are far more fun……..

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  20. Gregg: One of the things I had a problem with in the CEP case was the settlements.

    Unfortunately, it’s one of the side effects of having an independent receiver.

    The receiver is not a detective and his responsibilities are to the receivership.

    I wouldn’t mind betting the receiver was as pi***d off as anyone else by being constrained WRT what he could and couldn’t do to serial ponzi players such as Foss.

    When up against serial fraudsters the receiver is caught between a rock and a hard place.

    Chasing down someone with deliberate criminal intent is both outside a receivers’ perview and cost prohibitive ESPECIALLY when his/her every move is being hyper scrutinized by those pushing the the ebil gub’mint authorities just want your money line.

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  21. Well, I know. But if the DofJ would start indicting the pimps who led the real innocents into these scams, there would at least be legal justification for stripping them of everything they have and leaving them on the street wrapped in an old pair of drapes….

    There, now that’s an image that cheers me up…

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  22. Gregg: There, now that’s an image that cheers me up…

    You and me both.

    However, I’ve long believed it will take an act of political will by our political master/s, and not an administrative decision by any of the agencies to bring about such actions.

    THAT’S the bit which worries me.

    OTOH, if such will could be found, I am in no doubt the HYIP ponzi industry could be wounded. If not mortally, at least for long enough to put the frighteners on some of the fringe players.

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  23. I think what it is going to take is 1 person filing a lawsuit in Federal Court against all known pimps and if I had a good lawyer and the money I would do just that if for no other reason than I can.

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  24. Quick note: The ZTeamBiz site now says this at the top:

    “Important notice:

    SNR Denton US LLP represents Fun Club USA and all inquiries about this representation should be directed to Fun Club USA at [deleted by admin]. SNR Denton’s legal representation is limited to Fun Club USA; SNR Denton does not represent and does not have an attorney-client relationship with affiliates of Zeek, Zeek Rewards, Rex Venture Group LLC or with any individual or party that chooses to provide funds to Fun Club USA.”

    Patrick

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  25. Seems those Revive Zeek folks is now using Roger Johnsrud’s “investamerica” domain.

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  26. @Kasey: Yeah, the dude I know who was Zeek is forwarding that long-winded load of balderdash to everyone on his mailing list.

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  27. admin: Quick note: The ZTeamBiz site now says this at the top:“Important notice:SNR Denton US LLP represents Fun Club USA and all inquiries about this representation should be directed to Fun Club USA at [deleted by admin].SNR Denton’s legal representation is limited to Fun Club USA; SNR Denton does not represent and does not have an attorney-client relationship with affiliates of Zeek, Zeek Rewards, Rex Venture Group LLC or with any individual or party that chooses to provide funds to Fun Club USA.”Patrick

    I’d really like to think we had a little to do with that

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  28. I have written the following letter to SNR Denton requesting clarification…

    Greggory Brian Evans

    September 1, 2012

    Gene R. Besen
    Partner
    SNR Denton
    2000 McKinney Avenue
    Suite 1900
    Dallas, TX 75201-1858
    Dear Mr. Besen:

    I am an online journalist researching matters related to Rex Venture Group and Zeek Rewards and their current troubles with among others, the Securities and Exchange Commission.
    As you are aware, a group of Zeek Rewards affiliates have apparently retained you as their attorney in regards to this case. My question is, I would like some clarification on exactly who you represent. A Mr. Robert Craddock has been saying that you have been retained on behalf of all affiliates who contribute to this effort through a website he has set up to accept contributions. In a letter to potential donors dated today, Mr. Craddock states
    “Also, to clarify any rumors that are going around the Internet, yes, if you make a donation to Fun Club USA, you are a plaintiff in the lawsuit and in the group protected by SNR Denton. “

    I find this statement hard to believe, as in this case the court appointed receiver has indicated he intends to pursue clawbacks of ill gotten gains and while Mr. Craddock and the members of his group are net winners in this scheme and the people from whom he is soliciting donations are very likely net losers. If your representation goals are to protect your clients from clawback actions, those interests would be in direct conflict of those who would benefit from the receiver maximizing the amounts he recovers from ill gotten profits.
    All the communications I have found in regards to this eventually point to Fun Club USA, a site and company controlled by Mr. Craddock. They have the site set up to collect donations for their legal fund, with a disclaimer I am guessing your firm has insisted upon.
    More in line with what I expect is the statement that Fun Club USA has on their website, to wit:
    “SNR Denton US LLP represents Fun Club USA and all inquiries about this representation should be directed to Fun Club USA at zeeklegal@gmail.com. SNR Denton’s legal representation is limited to Fun Club USA; SNR Denton does not represent and does not have an attorney-client relationship with affiliates of Zeek, Zeek Rewards, Rex Venture Group LLC or with any individual or party that chooses to provide funds to Fun Club USA.”

    As a writer covering a story I’d like some clarification on just exactly who you and your firm represent. As a concerned citizen, I’d like to ask you to clarify to your client the same question and urge them to not confuse the issue.
    I realize I’m not exactly The New York Times but I still think it would be in everyone’s interest that you and your clients clarified these issues. I intend to cover it and I’m sure other, more mainstream publications will, too.

    Sincerely,
    Greggory Brian Evans, PhD

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  29. Nice one. I’ll look forward to seeing his reply. Let’s hope it is little clearer than a certain Attorney Larry Friedman’s responses to the members of Bob Guenther’s ASDMBA

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  30. Just who were the executive officers of Rex Ventures, Zeekler, Zeekrewards, et al?
    Obviously. Paul Ray Burks is CEO, but this took more than Burk just as Madoff took more than Bernie.
    Any other employees seem to want to talk about this company?

    Gailon Arthur Joy

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  31. I’m sure it will be, SNR Denton is a little more reputable.

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  32. I finally got around to listening to the conference call recording where Robert Craddock makes it sound like Noell Tin was a bumbling idiot in his handling of Paul Burks with the NC DOJ on site. Still trying to find out if anybody made a copy of that.

    Man, the B.S. that these guys are feeding the affiliates is sickening.

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  33. Gregg: I’m sure it will be, SNR Denton is a little more reputable.

    Let’s hope so. Larry Friedman wasn’t exactly a small fish, as Mark Cuban will surely verify.

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  34. Updates allegedly from Craddock says Denton returned their retainer, but also supposedly told him that “SEC didn’t have much of a case to start with”. ASD “deja vu”…

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  35. K. Chang: Updates allegedly from Craddock says Denton returned their retainer, but also supposedly told him that “SEC didn’t have much of a case to start with”. ASD “deja vu”…

    Was it SNR Denton that allegedly told him that or the new mystery law firm that SNR Denton allegedly recommended?

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  36. Lil Ol’ Radical Me: Let’s hope it is little clearer than a certain Attorney Larry Friedman’s responses to the members of Bob Guenther’s ASDMBA

    Well, it is a small world, just how small yet, I’m not sure. Dave Kettner’s wife handles their FaceBook page and in her update she did mention that their new law firm is based in Dallas. And in some strange coincidence Robert Craddock’s middle name is in fact Lee.

    This could get stranger, but we’d be playing with the odds.

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  37. Forbes Magazine’s Jordan Maglich who runs the PonziTracker Blog weighs in on the Disner/Kettner/Craddock lawsuit:

    SEC Admissions Of Weakness In Zeek Case “Inaccurate”; Tactics and Motivations of Zeek Victim Group Questioned

    http://www.ponzitracker.com/main/2012/9/10/sec-admissions-of-weakness-in-zeek-case-inaccurate-tactics-a.html?lastPage=true&postSubmitted=true

    Our friend KSChang even gets a plug.

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  38. I also talked to a source at the SEC who did not want to be named, his comment was short and succicnt “it’s just pure bullshit”.
    I expect the SEC to make a public statement today,

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  39. Too bad “rumor busting” is not profitable. :D They’d never go for a TV show called “Rumorbusters”. :D (think Mythbusters, but for scams and rumors)

    Didn’t Snopes.com wanted to do a TV show once? I know, offtopic!

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