CURRAN ORDERS INTERNET SHOPPING MALL TO CEASE BUSINESS, ALLEGES "ECB4U" IS PYRAMID SCHEME
Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that his officeís Securities Division has taken action against the owner and top promoters of an "Internet shopping mall" that the Securities Division alleges to be an unlawful pyramid scheme. The Securities Commissioner issued a Summary Order to Cease and Desist against Powercard International, Inc. of Daphne, Alabama, doing business as ECB4U, its founder, Stewart "Bubba" Giardina, and eight individuals who actively promoted ECB4U from an office called E Commerce Solutions, located on Green Meadow Drive in Timonium, Maryland.
ECB4U operates what it represents to be a network marketing program that allows representatives to earn commissions from transactions through ECB4Uís Internet shopping mall. According to the Division, ECB4U promoters recruit new representatives to become "E Commerce Trainers," by paying $450 for an ECB4U shopping website and the opportunity to earn commissions in ECB4Uís marketing plan. The Securities Division alleges, however, that ECB4Uís operation and commission system is based primarily on the recruitment of new participants through high-energy sales pitches and that earnings have little to do with the Internet shopping mall, which is simply a collection of hyperlinks to the websites of unaffiliated retail merchants. The Order states that ECB4Uís top promoters represent that new participants can earn substantial amounts of money and it quotes one promoter saying that "the money can be absolutely ridiculous." ECB4U, formerly called KM.Net, began operations in Maryland in September 2000 and has recruited more than one hundred Maryland participants to date.
In the Order, the Securities Division alleged that ECB4U and eight top promoters in Maryland violated the anti-fraud and registration provisions of the Maryland securities laws by soliciting Maryland residents to participate in an unlawful pyramid scheme. Among those named in the action is Edward Lamont of Emporium, Pennsylvania, described in the Order as being at the top of the ECB4U pyramid and the role model for new representatives. Those named in the action have 15 days in which to answer the allegations in the Order and to request a hearing.
"The Internet offers unlimited opportunities," said Curran. "Unfortunately, the Internet also offers scam artists new ways to seek to defraud people. Unlike legitimate multilevel marketing, pyramid schemes offer no product, or a product of dubious value. We issued the Summary Order in this case to prevent ECB4U from luring more Maryland participants."
Last year, Curranís office, along with the Federal Trade Commission and seven other states, sued Equinox International Inc. of Las Vegas, Nevada alleging it to be an unlawful pyramid scheme. Equinox enlisted several hundred thousand of distributors in the United States before the lawsuit ended its operation. A court appointed receiver is liquidating Equinox assets as part of a settlement estimated to net approximately $35 million to claimants.
Curran reminded investors to call the Securities Division at 410-576-6360 before they invest to find out if a program complies with the law. Even when an investment program looks reasonable, and friends and family trust the promoter, it is better to take a few minutes to verify the status of the promoters.