Real Wealth Inc. and its owner, Lance Murkin, have been slapped with a $10.4 million fine by a federal judge for fleecing more than 10,000 consumers -- including many who were unemployed, elderly and disabled -- with bogus employment and grant schemes.
In addition to the fine, which represents the total amount of money conned from unwitting consumers, Murkin and Real Wealth were also banned by the court from marketing and selling work-at-home or grant-related products, as well as helping others to do so.
The ruling resulted from legal action by the Federal Trade Commission, which sued Murkin and his Lees Summit, Mo., company in February 2010 as part of a larger crackdown against employment and money-making scams taking advantage of unemployed and desperate consumers known as "Operation Bottom Dollar".
"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 when the crackdown was announced.
"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," Vladek added.
The FTC's complaint against Murkin and Real Wealth accused them of conning more than 100,000 people by persuading them to purchase worthless booklets that purportedly explained how to earn money by applying for government grants and earning income from home by mailing postcards and envelopes.
Murkin preyed on his victims with direct mail campaigns, some of which specifically targeted the elderly and disabled, and all of which appealed to those in financial distress. The direct mail promotions lured consumers with such lies as "Collect up to $9,250 with my simple 3 minute form" or "All I do is mail 30 postcards everyday and I make an extra $350 a week!"
Real Wealth also took advantage of current headlines by promising that consumers could "rake in up to $1,500+ per week or more in solid cash" by learning "secrets" about the "$700 billion banking industry bailout."
Few, if any, consumers who purchased Real Wealth products made the income promised by Murkin and his company. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri agreed with the FTC that the defendant's claims were false or unsubstantiated, and that they violated the FTC Act.
The FTC also offers consumers advice on detecting and avoiding scams, including work-at-home schemes, bogus business opportunities, free government grants and job hunting scams. The agency also produced the above video on job scams.
Introduction to Value Investing
Are you the next Warren Buffett?View Course »