At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court has temporarily halted the operation of a sprawling business opportunity scheme that has taken in millions of dollars from consumers with bogus promises of huge returns.
The scheme has operated since at least 2018 under a number of names, including “Blueprint to Wealth,” according to the FTC’s complaint. Three individuals — Samuel James Smith, Robert William Shafer and Charles Joseph Garis, Jr. — and a company owned by one of them — Business Revolution Group — are charged in the complaint with operating the scheme.
Blueprint to Wealth targets consumers looking to build their own businesses with a program that offers essentially no value, other than commissions that come from encouraging others to join the scheme, according to the complaint.
“Schemes like this use bogus claims to lure in consumers who are trying to provide for their families, only to leave people’s finances in tatters,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will continue to track down and stop those who deceive consumers out of their hard-earned money.”
The complaint alleges that consumers were charged at least $3,000 and as much as $21,000, plus additional hundreds in “administrative fees,” for membership in the scheme, which nominally promises its members turnkey online businesses that would be operated on the members’ behalf.
Advertising and marketing for the businesses is controlled by the scheme’s operators and the businesses exist entirely to sell Blueprint to Wealth memberships, the complaint charges.
The complaint charges that the scheme’s marketing is rife with false claims. One robocall used by the scheme claims to be from a member saying, “I actually make $50,000 each month,” and a scheme website says, among other claims, that consumers could “start earning $3,500 weekly within 3-10 days From Now!” Another website includes videos that claim to be from scheme members who made tens of thousands of dollars in little time.
The complaint charges that Shafer and Garis used robocalls, telemarketing, and social media ads to contact consumers and convince them to join the Blueprint to Wealth scheme. The complaint notes that in one call with a consumer in her seventies, Garis told the consumer that she could “get out of debt quicker” and begin making a profit if she joined Blueprint to Wealth, a recommendation he made while knowing that the consumer was a retiree in need of extra money.
Smith, according to the complaint, acted as the scheme’s administrator, controlling its online headquarters and goods and services that consumers receive with membership in Blueprint to Wealth.
The court’s order temporarily bars the defendants from misrepresenting or assisting others in misrepresenting material facts about any business or money-making opportunity. It also freezes the defendants’ assets until further action by the court. The FTC’s complaint asks the court to shut down the defendants’ scheme permanently and allow the FTC to provide refunds to the consumers harmed by the scheme.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 3-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
The staff attorneys on this matter are Connell McNulty and Lauren Rivard of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.