After Six Year Slumber, FTC Wakes Up Big And Goes After Fortune Hi Tech

BREAKING NEWS:

The FTC has sued Fortune Hi Tech marketing, alleging them to be a pyramid scheme.  As of today, an injunction has been issued.  Read below for the FTC’s press release.  Also, a copy of the complaint is provided below.

FHTM Promoted Itself as a Path to Financial Independence, But Most People Made Little or No Money

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission and the states of Illinois, Kentucky, and North Carolina, a federal court has halted an allegedly illegal pyramid scheme pending trial.  The FTC and the state attorneys general seek to stop the allegedly illegal practices of the Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing (FHTM) operation, which claimed consumers would make substantial income by joining the scheme.  The operation affected more than 100,000 consumers throughout the United States, including Puerto Rico, and Canada.  In some areas, including Chicago, the scheme targeted Spanish-speaking consumers.

“Pyramid schemes are more like icebergs,” said C. Steven Baker, Director of the FTC’s Midwest Region.  “At any point most people must and will be underwater financially.  These defendants were promising people that if they worked hard they could make lots of money.  But it was a rigged game, and the vast majority of people lost money.”

According to the complaint filed by the FTC and the state attorneys general, the defendants falsely claimed consumers would earn significant income for selling the products and services of companies such as Dish Network, Frontpoint Home Security, and various cell phone providers, and for selling FHTM’s line of health and beauty products.  Despite FHTM’s claims, nearly all consumers who signed up with the scheme lost more money than they ever made.  To the extent that consumers could make any income, however, it was mainly for recruiting other consumers, and FHTM’s compensation plan ensured that most consumers made little or no money, the complaint alleged.

“This is the beginning of the end for one of the most prolific pyramid schemes operating in North America,” Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said.  “This is a classic pyramid scheme in every sense of the word.  The vast majority of people, more than 90 percent, who bought in to FHTM lost their money.”

As alleged in the complaint, FHTM promoted itself as a way for average people to achieve financial independence.  Some FHTM representatives claimed they earned more than 10 times as much as their previous earnings in their second and subsequent years with FHTM.  One person claimed that another representative earned more than $50,000 in his sixth month and millions of dollars in subsequent years.  Another person promoted a recruitment meeting on her Twitter account, stating, “Bring ur friends & learn how 2 make $120K aYR.”  At its 2012 national convention in Dallas, FHTM called its top 30 earners to the stage to present them with a mock-up of a $64 million check, which several of them shared as a photo on social networking websites.

To participate in the scheme, consumers paid annual fees ranging from $100 to $300.  To qualify for sales commissions and recruiting bonuses, they had to pay an extra $130 to $400 per month and agree to a continuity plan that billed them monthly for products unless they canceled the plan.  Those who signed up more consumers and maintained certain sales levels could earn promotions and greater compensation, but contrary to FHTM’s claims, the complaint alleged, its compensation plan ensured that, at any given time, most participants would spend more money than they would earn.

According to the complaint, recruits were told they could earn high commissions by selling products to people outside the operation, but instead only minimal compensation was paid for sales to non-participants, and few products were ever sold to anyone other than participants.  The scheme provided much larger rewards for recruiting people than for selling products, and more than 85 percent of the money consumers made was for recruitment.

In addition to charging the defendants with operating an illegal pyramid scheme and making false earnings claims, the FTC charged them with furnishing consumers with false and misleading materials for recruiting more participants.  The attorneys general offices of Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina joined the FTC complaint, as well as alleging violations of their respective state laws.

The defendants are Paul C. Orberson, Thomas A. Mills, Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing Inc., FHTM Inc., Alan Clark Holdings LLC, FHTM Canada Inc., and Fortune Network Marketing (UK) Limited.  On January 24, 2013, the court halted the deceptive practices, froze the defendants’ assets, and appointed a temporary receiver over the corporations pending a trial.

The Commission vote, including Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch, authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

If you’re reading this via email, please click this review the FTC vs. Fortune Hi Tech lawsuit.

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  • CashWhisperer Kendall Peterson

    Kevin, from a compliance stand point, there were issues with FHTM from day one in my humble and accurate opinion.

    • Brenda1925

      Kendall, please elaborate. What were they doing that was out of compliance?

  • b556Ft^^67

    Everything they did was out of compliance. From income misrepresentations, to partnership lies to a compensation plan designed to enrich a select few at the expense of the many.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004703082660 Scott Johnson

    Why is this any worse than Amway scamming their IBOs via the Amway Tool Scam? In fact, Amway has been around longer and is bigger, which makes it FAR worse than FHTM.

    • http://www.themlmattorney.com/about Kevin Thompson

      Scott, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you here. Just as a reminder, please try to avoid turning every post into a conversation about Amway.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004703082660 Scott Johnson

        Kevin, thanks for welcoming me back, and thanks for the reminder. Would you mind starting an Amway thread on your blog? Would someone mind answering my question on that thread?

  • randal jackson
  • Skapegoat

    Orberson abandones FHTM and its reps fir Zija. FHTM will never reopen.

  • Donna Kovacs

    I contacted the Rewards Mall today and confirmed that they are keeping our accounts open and have no plans to ever close down. I am so thankful!!! :-)

  • Burlesque King

    Whistle-blower Joseph Isaacs (www.joseph-isaacs.com), who was made famous by exposing the Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing (FHTM) pyramid scheme and fraud back in 2010 has just released his memoir called, “Skapegoat – the FHTM Blame Game Story” via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C43JKQG. It is also available in paperback at Lulu.com

    This compelling, true and personal, story is about a successful semi-retired 30+ year entrepreneur that turned whistle-blower after getting involved with an illegal Ponzi style MLM called Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing (FHTM) in 2009. Top FHTM leaders and its founder Paul Orberson tried to destroy his life after he developed a FREE Facebook style tool-set for the industry. Subsequent to FHTM receiving their 2nd cease and desist from Montana, he filed a complaint with the Kentucky BBB explaining their fraudulent ways, in an effort to get reimbursement for unwanted inventory. Shortly thereafter they make him the global scapegoat for everything bad happening to FHTM.