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Work-At-Home Scheme Sued for Fraud

A husband and wife team, operating a series of companies including Preferred Platinum Services Network, the Home Based Associate Program and the Postcard Processing Program, were sued for fraud by the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan this week, which maintains the duo has a long history of ripping off the most vulnerable members of society.

Calls made to the company were answered by a tape recorded message that did not provide an option to leave a message.

In a complaint that was unsealed Wednesday, Philip Pestrichello and Rosalie Florie, were charged with running an elaborate scheme to take in payments from people who were told they could make big money working from home part time.

The catch was that applicants would have to pay an "enrollment fee" ranging from $80 to $90. But many said they were later asked for additional payments to remain in the program. The vast majority of these consumers never earned any money for "processing post cards." When they complained, they were either ignored or told that they misunderstood. They'd only be paid "commissions" if someone bought the "mortgage accelerator" program advertised in the postcards.

A postal inspector who filed testimony in the complaint said one victim paid $300 in up-front fees and continuing payments for more postcards, before she realized the job was nothing but a scam. The postal inspector said that other investors had tried to buy the mortgage accelerator program, but were unable to contact the company to do so.

"Accordingly, I believe the 'mortgage accelerator program' was itself a sham, such that consumers could not possibly realize commissions through sales of that non-existent product," the postal inspector testified.

Reality came in stark contrast to the company's advertisements which stated:

"Rest assured this is not a scam or a shady get-rich-quick scheme," the company's advertisements said. "Associates, you could earn $1 for each postcard you process and we conveniently offer you weekly compensation directly by company check each Friday."

U.S. Attorneys charged that Pestrichello had a long history of operating consumer frauds. During the 1990s, he was the subject of a series of regulatory actions and injunctions taken by the New Jersey Department of Consumers Affairs; the FTC and the Florida Attorney General. In 2003, he was convicted of mail fraud for marketing another work-from-home scheme. He started the Preferred Platinum Services Network while on supervised release from prison, the complaint said.

It's worth mentioning that this scam is just one of potentially hundreds that seek to capitalize on the nation's high unemployment rate and the desperation of some consumers to find a way to make ends meet. But the vast majority of work-at-home "opportunities"--and certainly all of the opportunities that require an up-front payment from the employee--are fraudulent, regulators say.

In this case, the web was littered with complaints at sites including the Rip-Off Report and ComplaintsBoard.com. However, many of the complaints were countered by "testimonials" written by people who couldn't be contacted. Experts believe faux testimonials are a common tactic. They're written by insiders who hope to keep the scam going.

Other twists of the same scam have consumers paying upfront fees for "background" or "credit checks" and/or "materials," according to the Better Business Bureau.

Real opportunities pay you. You don't pay them. Don't make your problems worse by sending a crook a check.

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