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Marketing firm to pay more than $7M for pyramid scheme

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a settlement to ban a global pyramid scheme run by Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing and provide at least $7.75 million in restritution for victims.

Madigan filed a lawsuit against Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing on Jan. 24, 2013, with the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from Kentucky and North Carolina.

Authorities claim consumers paid a $249 fee to join Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing, and then were allowed to sell consumer goods and services—including satellite television services, home security systems and beauty products, according to a statement from the Attorney General’s office.

Promotional and recruitment materials claimed participants could “get rich,” but after paying the fee to join, members were forced to make substantial payments for recruiting new members and only received “pennies in commission” for sales, the AG’s office said.

The company enrolled more than 350,000 participants—in particular consumers from the Latino community—thoughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, according to the statement. More than 98 percent lost money, and at least 88 percent did not even recoup their enrollment fees.

“This pyramid scheme promised big returns but resulted in significant financial losses for thousands of families in Illinois,” Madigan said in the statement.

The company must surrender at least $7.75 million in assets for restitution under the settlement, according to the statement. People owed restitution will be contacted by a settlement adminstrator to begin the refund process.