URGENT >> BULLETIN >> MOVING: FTC Gains Spectacular Judgment Of $359 Million In Alleged Cross-Border Fraud Involving Continuity Billing; Case Features Elements Similar To Allegations Against Jeremy Johnson
URGENT >> BULLETIN >> MOVING: In a case that featured elements similar to the allegations against U.S.-based Internet Marketer Jeremy Johnson, the FTC has gained a $359 million consent judgment against alleged Canadian scammer Jesse Willms and other defendants.
The agency sued Willms in May 2011, about six months after it sued Johnson. Wiilms now has settled without acknowledging wrongdoing, but the settlement appears to be a straight-line win for the agency, which lauded the Canada Competition Bureau, Service Alberta, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Alberta Partnership Against Cross Border Fraud, the Edmonton Better Business Bureau and the BBB of Southern Nevada for assisting in the cross-border probe.
“The fact that almost four million consumers fell prey to the lure of these ‘free trial’ offers is a stark reminder that ‘free’ offers can come at a huge price,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Without referencing Johnson or the case against him, IWorks Inc. and scores of other defendants when commenting on the Willms’ judgment, Vladek said this:
“The FTC has stopped about $1 billion in online marketing fraud during the past two years by shutting down operations like this. But consumers still need to beware, because scam artists are constantly coming up with new ways to deceive people online.”
Johnson has denied wrongdoing on both the civil and criminal fronts. Federal prosecutors said last month that they anticipate Johnson will face criminal charges in addition to a single count of mail fraud he currently faces. And a court appointed receiver in the FTC’s civil case issued a report earlier this month that described a massive fraud scheme that crossed international borders and cloaked assets.
The alleged scams of Willms and Johnson pulled in at least $700 million, according to court filings.
A federal judge must approve the Willms’ consent order, which requires the surrender of bank account funds and “proceeds from the sale of his house, personal property, and corporate assets, including a Cadillac Escalade, fur coat, and artwork, the FTC said.
“International collaboration is increasingly important for enforcement agencies combating deceptive practices online,” said Lisa Campbell, deputy commissioner of Competition for the Canada Competition Bureau.
Part of the Willms’ scheme falsely traded on the names of Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray while also making false claims of cancer cures and weight loss, the FTC charged last year. In fact, the FTC said, Winfrey sued Willms.
In addition to using the names of Winfrey and Ray, the Willms’ scheme also traded on the famous names of CNN, USA Today, CBS, the “60 Minutes” television show and other brands, the FTC said last year.
News about the Willms’ settlement came on the same day affiliates of JSS Tripler/JustBeenPaid were using the name and image of actress Lindsay Lohan in a YouTube promo. JSS Tripler/JustBeenPaid affiliates also have traded on the names and likenesses of Winfrey and Warren Buffett.
JSS Tripler/JustBeenPaid purports to be an investment scheme that pays annualized returns of 730 percent. The “program” operates online and is purportedly the braintrust of Frederick Mann.