Business

Work-at-home Web Sites Settle FTC Charges

Brothers who operated Web sites promising profits from work-at-home businesses have settled charges that they misled customers with false earnings claims, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said.

The FTC filed a civil complaint against Eric G. Louie, doing business as Fastcashathome.com, Fastcashathome.homestead.com and Hometypers.com; and Calvin G. Louie, doing business as Moneymakingsecret.homestead.com, Realcashprograms.com, and Dataentrypro.com, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Eastern Division, in November 2006. The six Web sites are no longer operating.

The FTC accused the Louie brothers of inflating earnings potential in work-at-home opportunities involving government grants, mystery shopping, online surveys and data entry.

In the settlement, announced Wednesday, the brothers are barred from further marketing work-at-home opportunities.

The settlement also imposes a US$4.9 million judgment that will be suspended if the brothers surrender assets frozen by the court in 2006; proceeds from the sale of two cars, a Lamborghini and a Ferrari; and any tax refunds for tax years 2005 and 2006. The full judgment will be imposed if they fail to meet the terms of the settlement, or if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition, the FTC said in a press release.

The Louies charged consumers between $47 and $129 to access Web sites that included "money-making secrets," the FTC said. Their advertised programs either did not exist as represented or did not offer quick and easy money with little time or effort as promised, the agency said.

The case was brought as part of "Project Fal$e Hope$," an FTC-led effort that targeted bogus business opportunities and work-at-home scams. The effort has resulted in more than 100 law enforcement actions by the FTC, the I.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and law enforcement agencies in 11 states.

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