Is A New Company Known As RGMG Emerging To Promote Elements Of Inter-Mark Corp. In Wake Of Secret Service Raid At INetGlobal Amid Ponzi Allegations?
UPDATED 5:43 P.M. ET (U.S.A., Jan. 20, 2011.) On Feb. 23, the U.S. Secret Service raided the Minneapolis offices of INetGlobal, a company operated by Steve Renner under the Inter-Mark Corp. umbrella. The raid occurred amid allegations that INetGlobal was operating an autosurf Ponzi scheme and also engaging in wire fraud and money-laundering.
A week later — on March 2 — a domain titled RGMG.net was registered in the name of Matt Renner, according to web records. The domain lists a different Minneapolis address than the Steve Renner entities, some of which used a “V” theme: “V-Media” and “V-Local,” among others.
Matt Renner, 27, is Steve Renner’s son.
“We’re running a legitimate business,” he said of RGMG.
V-Local, which has a website at V-Local.com that is registered to Renner’s Inter-Mark in Las Vegas, was “offered to iNetGlobal members as a service they could sell,” the Secret Service said in an affidavit last month.
Matt Renner, who worked as an executive at V-Local, said V-Local provided legitimate products and services.
“We at V-Local were doing nothing wrong,” he said.
And Matt Renner defended his father. “I don’t believe any wrongdoing was done,” he said.
Steve Renner was convicted in December of four felony counts of income-tax evasion.Â He was awaiting sentencing in the tax case, even as the Ponzi allegations surfaced against INetGlobal.
V-Local’s logo is featured prominently on the RGMG.net site, which says, “RGMG LLC is a rising player in Digital Media Planning, Buying, Selling and Development. With over 35 years combined digital marketing experience and more than 800 past and current clients, the team at RGMG has the experienceÂ to deliver high value wide ranging services.”
Another section of the RGMG site says, “Based out of the Beautiful city of Minneapolis Minnesota, RGMG started because the demand for a company who’s (sic) Executives pay more attention to their customers (sic) needs, than their own pocket books, was felt by Founder and President, Matthew D. Renner.”
Yet another section of the RGMG site says, “The team at RGMG has developed many custom platforms including in partnership with V-Media and iNetGlobal the powerful local lifestyle and business directory V-Local.com.”
Although there are serious allegations of wrongdoing against INetGlobal and it is possible that Ponzi proceeds were used to fund V-Local, the RGMG.net site does not mention the allegations or inform visitors that the Secret Service painted a picture that Steve Renner’s claims about V-Local were overblown. (Read a section of the affidavit concerning V-Local lower in this story.)
“[T]here is probable cause to believe that [Steve] Renner is operating a large, Internet-based, Ponzi scheme through his umbrella corporation, InterMark, and some of its subsidiaries, particularly Virtual Payment Systems [LLC of Wisconsin/Brackets Denoting the LLC Designation added Jan. 20, 2011], V-Media, Cash Cards International, and V-Local,” the Secret Service said last month. It further alleged that INetGlobal was the “primary vehicle for the perpetration of this fraud.”
NOTE IN BOLD ADDED JAN. 20, 2011: An Indianapolis-based company known as Virtual Payment Systems Inc. has contacted the PP Blog to let it know it is not affiliated with the Renner company Virtual Payment Systems LLC of Wisconsin, which is referenced in the paragraph above.
There have been no assertions of wrongdoing against RGMG, and the RGMG site does not appear to have a surfing component among the services listed. RCMG stands for “Renner Global Media Group,” according to the site.
Matt Renner, who said he read the Secret Service allegations, said he was not worried that problems could spill over into RGMG and create a problem for the emerging brand.
“It’s a legitimate website,” he said. “It’s a legitimate company; it’s absolutely a valuable service.”
The site, however, may come with a built-in PR dilemma: how to navigate the choppy waters of embracing the Steve Renner V-Local brand without addressing the Ponzi assertions against INetGlobal and V-Local, perhaps especially if a Renner family member is at the head of RGMG.
At the same time, certain marketing materials and the prominence with which Steve Renner’s V-Local is referenced on the RGMG site — indeed, V-Local’s logo appears on the site in at least two places and RGMG encourages visitors to make V-Local their “new Homepage” — may leave some customers and employees of INetGlobal and its “V” entities scratching their heads.
V-Local’s name is prominently mentioned in INetGlobal marketing materials, including a news release dated March 25, 2009. The headline on the news release said, “iNetGlobal launches V-Local and iNetSurf on Saturday, March 28, 2009.” The news release included the V-Local.com logo (pictured above.)
Despite the claim that V-Local launched in March 2009, a news release issued 11 months later — in February 2010 — claimed a January 2010 launch date for V-Local under this headline: “V-Local Reports Exponential Growth Following January Launch.” The Feb. 16 news release includes a graphic of a logo for V-Local labeled “BETA.”
Why the news releases list two different launch dates for V-Local is unclear. Steve Renner’s own website — SteveRenner.com — announced the launch of V-Local on March 3, 2009.
“Steve Renner who is known for his knack of creating successful online ventures, has Struck Gold with his latest project, V-Local,” the website reported.
No mention was made that Renner already was under indictment for tax evasion and that another Renner entity — Cash Cards International — had been unable to return money to victims of a Ponzi scheme known as “Learn Waterhouse,” amid assertions that Renner had spent customers’ money as though it were his own and had invested $250,000 in the Learn Waterhouse scheme.
Renner’s site said the type of service V-Local provided “would normally cost the $1,000â€™s but V-Local has set the price at an extremely affordable price of just $59 per month, for their Top Of The Line ‘Showcase’ listing.”
A section of the Feb. 16, 2010, news release reads, “V-Local, the first-of-its-kind online business and lifestyle directory, announced today that it has experienced unprecedented growth since its launch on Jan. 15, 2010. Site traffic increased 900 percent in February alone, according to Google Analytics, with more than 100,000 visitors since the siteâ€™s launch.”
Going back 11 months, the body copy of the March 2009 news release that announced V-Local’s launch read, in part: “On Monday, March 16, 2009 iNetGlobal did a ‘soft’ launch of iNetSurf. This product and had over 3,000 internet users sign up in one work day. At iNetSurf current pace, we can expect over 200,000 active ‘surfers’ in 6 months!”
Meanwhile, the emergence of RGMG after the Secret Service raid at INetGlobal could lead to questions about why INetGlobal ever used an autosurf component and folded components such a V-Local into the enterprise.
Between Jan. 11 and Jan. 29, according to a Secret Service affidavit, undercover agents logged in to the INetGlobal website on “multiple occasions.”
Among the things agents noted while logging in, according to the affidavit, was that â€˜V-Localâ€™ has an address listed as 250 Second Avenue South, Suite 145, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55401.”
The Secret Service said it conducted surveillance of the office suite in January — prior to the raid — from a skyway and corridor open to the public.
“Agents saw signs reading ‘iNetGlobal’ and ‘V-Local.com’ at the door of Suite 106A, and saw signs reading ‘V-Records’ and ‘VWebs’ at the door of suite 145,” the agency said. The office suites later were searched as part of the raid.
The phone number associated with RGMG.net in its domain registration also is referenced in INetGlobal marketing materials that quote Matt Renner.
In the Feb. 16 news release, which was issued about a week before the Secret Service raid, INetGlobal is described as V-Local’s parent company.
“V-Local is a lifestyle and business directory, featuring over 3.5 million businesses, events, classifieds and coupons,” the release said. “As a premier online advertising resource for businesses, V-Local provides a platform for businesses to leverage their brand and generate local and global exposure. V-Local bridges the gap between businesses and consumers at both global and local levels.”
A week after the Feb. 16 news release, the Secret Service suggested in its affidavit for a search warrant that Steve Renner’s V-Local marketing claims were overblown. Here is a snippet from the affidavit:
“[Steve] Renner claimed that iNetGlobalâ€™s business directory, V-Local, had over 3.5
million businesses signed up. He explained that attendees could make a great deal of money selling V-Local and signing up businesses to participate in V-Local.
“[Steve] Renner stated that V-Local was expanding into Canada, Europe, and China. He claimed that when a company was listed on V-Local, iNetGlobal would list the business with over 65 local directories, plus social networking sites, and would arrange for the business to be input into Garmin and TomTom GPS navigation devices, as well as Cadillac OnStar.
“On January 28, 2010, [an undercover agent] searched for ‘coffee shop’ in Minneapolis, Minnesota on V-Local, asking V-Local to find the nearest coffee shop. There were no results. [An undercover agent] then broadened the search to coffee shop, food and dining. V-Local then identified six coffee shops in Iowa, Kansas, and other states, only one of them in Minnesota (in Byron).
“[Steve] Renner stated that if an attendee wanted to sell V-Local the attendee would need to pay $300, watch several videos, and take a certification test. Renner stated that for every person in a memberâ€™s ‘downline’ who got certified to sell V-Local, the original member would receive $100. Renner stated that this would be an enormous jump in a memberâ€™s income. Approximately one week after the Freedom Conference [in New York Jan. 23], [an undercover agent] searched on V-Local for ‘gym’ and ‘restaurant. There were no hits in the search for gym, and only one hit in the search for restaurant.”
Matt Renner said he believed RGMG would emerge a leader, despite the assertions against INetGlobal.
“They didn’t shut the company down,” he said, referring to INetGlobal. “No arrests were made. RGMG is a company that will generate good, positive results.”