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For Immediate Release
June 20, 2002
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357

MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE JOINS STATE, FEDERAL LAW ENFORCERS IN STING OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY, WORK-AT-HOME SCAMS
Maryland Brings Three Cases in Project Busted Opportunity

In an effort to crackdown on business opportunity and work-at-home fraud, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that his office has joined the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice and law enforcers in 16 states in launching a law enforcement sting and consumer education campaign targeting operators who violate state and federal laws. Many of those named today used deceptive earnings claims and paid shills to promote their scams.

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office announced that it has charged the following companies with selling business opportunities to Maryland residents in violation of Maryland’s Business Opportunity Sales Act: Accent Marketing of Alabama, Inc.; Parr Marketing Group, of Largo, Maryland; and Omni Equipment, of Katy, Texas.

Curran’s office joined the Federal Trade Commission in filing a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama for injunctive relief against Accent Marketing of Alabama, Inc. and several officers and affiliates of that company. According to the complaint, Accent Marketing offered and sold vending machine business opportunities nationally, including in Maryland. Curran’s office alleged that Accent Marketing placed deceptive advertisements in the Washington Post and other newspapers stating that buyers could earn from $3,200 to $18,000 per month by operating vending machines. Curran’s office also alleged that Accent Marketing used phony references–shills–who posed as successful and prosperous owners of Accent’s business opportunity when, in fact, the company paid those references to lie to prospective buyers who called to investigate the opportunity.

"My office will continue to take action against any business opportunity seller who violates Maryland law," Attorney General Curran said. "We will work with our federal and state partners whenever possible to protect Marylanders and stop deceptive or misleading business opportunity sales practices."

Curran’s Securities Division also issued a Summary Order to Cease and Desist against Parr Marketing Group and Charles Parr. The Summary Order alleges that Parr placed misleading classified advertisements in the employment section of newspapers, including the Washington Post, offering customer service positions paying $75,000 per year. According to the Order, people who responded to Parr’s advertisements found no jobs; instead, they found themselves at a sales presentation for Parr’s business opportunity.

The Securities Division also issued a Final Order to Cease and Desist against Omni Equipment, which offered vending machine business opportunities in Maryland. The Securities Division alleged that Omni represented that six of its vending machines could generate as much as $43,000 annually.

In all three cases announced by Curran, the business opportunity sellers were not registered with the Maryland Securities Division, and they did not distribute a disclosure document to prospective buyers, all of which is required under Maryland law.

Curran urges any Maryland residents interested in investing in a home based business opportunity, or in buying a janitorial cleaning franchise to first contact the Securities Division at (410) 576-6360, or visit the Attorney General’s web site at http://www.oag.state.md.us.

As part of the nationwide business opportunity sweep, federal and state law enforcers brought a total of 48 actions against companies ranging from envelope stuffing work-at-home schemes to snack and soda vending machine businesses to medical billings work-at-home schemes. All of the actions were characterized by earnings claims that were unsubstantiated or deceptive.

The state and federal agencies are launching an extensive consumer education campaign, including a Spanish language component, to help consumers avoid fraudulent business opportunity and work-at-home schemes. The FTC has three free consumer publications, ‘Net-Based Business Opportunities: Are Some ‘Flop-portunities’?, Could ‘Biz Opp’ Offers Be Out For Your Coffers?, and Answering the Knock of a Business ‘Opp.’ They are available on the Internet at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/consumer.htm

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