Pursuant to an order issued by a U.S. District Court Judge, the Federal Trade Commission will receive $10.4 million from Real Wealth, Inc., and its owner, who the agency alleged ran “work-at-home” and grant scams. The case was referred to the Commission by the AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly.
The defendants’ booklets explained how to earn money by applying for government grants or working from home.
Lance Murkin, the sole owner of Real Wealth, used sales pitches like “All I do is mail 30 postcards every day and I make an extra $350 a week!” and “Collect up to $9,250 with my simple 3 minute form,” claims which the FTC alleged were false and unsubstantiated.
Thousands of consumers responded to the defendants’ direct-mail campaign, which targeted the elderly and disabled, according to the agency.
But few, if any, consumers made substantial income from the defendants’ products, the FTC said.
At least 100,000 consumers nationwide participated in the defendants’ business activities, and between 2004 and 2009 the defendants derived more than $10.4 million, according to the agency.
The FTC filed an order in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, and Chief Judge for the District Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr., granted summary judgment for the agency.
Under the court’s order, the defendants will pay just over $10.4 million, the gross revenues they derived from their business, and are banned from marketing or selling work-at-home and grant-related products in the future.
To read the court’s order in FTC v. Real Wealth, Inc., click here.
Why it matters: The FTC said that the action was part of “Operation Bottom Dollar,” a law enforcement sweep intended to crack down on illegal job and money-making scams. The operation included 7 actions filed by the FTC – including the Real Wealth complaint – as well as 18 actions by state attorneys general, a civil action by the Postal Inspection Service, and 43 criminal actions by the Department of Justice. “Federal and state law enforcement officials will not tolerate those who take advantage of consumers in times of economic misfortune,” David C. Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement about the operation. “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. We will give your assets to the people you scammed, and, when it’s appropriate, we’ll refer you to criminal authorities for prosecution.”