Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Global Prosperity Group - Pyramid Scam

While thinking about Katrina, I calmed down and realized that I don't have problems. I am just a spoiled little 28 year old brat who hasn't made it on his own yet and expects the perfect life to be rewarded to him just because he took the effort to avail himself of the education that would be required for him to succeed in his chosen profession. Okay, talking in third person is weird.

My biggest success stories come from my biggest failures. Somehow they make me unique. Not many people lose their life savings in college on a home-based business while prospecting on the phone from morning until evening and traveling to Aruba to meet tax protesters who are now in jail. I was part of the biggest MLM scam of all, which went by the names of Global Prosperity Group, Institute of Global Prosperity (IGP), Helping International, and many other organizations who went under because of mismanagement by the people who were running the groups.

We sold information. We sold courses covering topics such as asset protection, trusts, complex business organizations, and dealt with shady investors, tax protestors, and other offshore companies who wanted to scam us out of every dollar we would ever fraudulently make either through our sales or through the hundreds of dollars we would pour into buying leads each month through ProSTEP or any of the turn-key postcard lead generation systems. My phone bills averaged over $1,500 per month, and my advertising budget averaged $500 per week.

With hindsight, I realize now that I was over my head in a tax-shelter scheme that was later infiltrated by the IRS and the FBI, and many of my friends went to jail. I suppose I would have been a target too, but despite all my work, I was a failure at it and I couldn't turn a profit, so by virtue of my poverty, I wasn't able to break any laws. However, I did spend $6,250 (plus another $2,000 for airfare, lodging, and expenses) to attend their offshore seminar in Aruba. I was there in 1997, the year before the FBI infiltrated the meetings and made their arrests.

While I was standing in the hotel in Aruba with a glass of Champagne in my hand with the owners of the association, Zoe Lamantia and David Struckman (the owners of the group) were talking with me. They said "wow, if I were your age [19, then] doing what you are doing now, I cannot even begin to imagine how much I could make." I felt proud because I believed that I was in the right place at the right time with the right people. I was going to be rich and I worked hard at it. I was going to make it.

Unfortunately, I ran out of cash and credit and I couldn't continue to advertise, and the long distance company shut down my phone because I couldn't generate enough revenue to keep it all going. All my friends told me that I was involved in a scam and that I was brainwashed, but I was convinced that I was on the elite track and that I was going to generate $2,000 to $10,000 per week, as long as I continued working the business as I was taught to. I went broke and was forced to shut down. It was shortly afterwards that my friends went to jail for many federal crimes, and I went to law school to find out what they did wrong.

Hence, now you understand where the name Zoe Strickman comes from. These were my heros, and even though as people they were criminals, they instilled within me a faith that one doesn't need to belong to the system and follow its rules to be successful. It is not an irony that I am now fully back "in" the system, when at one point I could have been described as being completely "out" of the system. However, rejoining the slaves with the j-o-b ("just over broke") life was my choice, although I have always been ambivalent to the authorities in society that keep most people in line.

Note: Even though I am not proud of being part of this association, as you can see from this link to a page that described the Global Prosperity Group scam here, as a teenager, I was way over my head. I thank G-d every day for my failure in this venture, because from where I was standing when I was involved in this organization, I didn't know right from wrong and had I been given the opportunity to succeed and move forward with this business, I would have continued working it day and night. Again, I thank G-d for my failure.


Scott said...

At one time or another we have all been scamed, and as long as you came out unscathed and have learned a hard earned lesson, I say it was a good thing. A friend I met in passing taught me,,, It is ALL GOOD. Believe it or not, it is very true.
It is All Good!!

Pragmatician said...

I can't make out from your article if then you realized it the company was making money on the back of gullible people?

I agree with one thing, sometimes bad luck turns out to be the biggest luck you’ll ever experienced.
Unfortunately, only in hindsight.

Rowan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rowan said...

wow! sounds like something out of that movie, the boilerroom (one of my favourites) I had been approached by these sorts asking me to sell "nothing" for them while I was in college, they can try to be very convincing, fortunately, I was raised in a sales home. I know my bs when I see it, and I also don't care about the product (99% of the time) so therefore, you can't sell what isn't there, at least for me. Great that you got out of it, I got out of a quasi-mob life. I was a biker chick in my late teens. Maybe you are someone that would understand how difficult it is to get away from this. Not for the reasons most people would think, but you literally lose all contact with anyone, change your methods of thinking, change your outlook, change your dress, work towards a new goal, decide to be worth more to yourself and other people than what kind of free love you can offer them, or how you can best please "them" vs. "myself", stop the drugs, and completely rebuild oneself. That's what happened to me when I was 18. I woke up!

I am very proud of my 'survival' story because I imagine those ppl are doing the exact same thing when I last saw them nearly 10 years ago. Burn outs and wannabes the lot of them. I have completely turned 180 degrees, and you probably sense a bitterness in my writing sometimes about "missing" something. This is usually aspects of this lifestyle I miss out on. I realize I needed to change everything in order to be the conforming citizen I am today, but there is a wicked "devil on my shoulder" side of me that wants what I know I should never have again.

Zoe Strickman said...

Pragmatician: I was convinced it was legit and legal. We were selling a $1250 product and we kept 90% of the purchase price as commission. 10% was used to pay for the product we shipped. The product was apparently worth many time more than that -- anyone else who purchased the product had a right to sell it. It seemed very fair to me, and a good deal. I didn't realize the founders were the owners also of the lead generation and the long distance company and the turnkey postcards.

Hindsight, now that I am in law school, the product was not legally sound advice. A lot of people got in trouble from using it. I spent six months in a law library just researching the product to figure that out.

Rowan: Then I'm sure you can understand and relate to this story. It is part of why I have trouble adjusting to the concept of a job (why work for mere dollars per hour if you can make hundreds or thousands for the same time doing this?); I also think from your biker story you can relate to my involvement with the Chassidic lifestyle -- your description was pretty accurate, except they don't kill you when you try to withdraw.

Zoe Strickman said...

Rowan, one more thing:
I think the difference between the first version and the second version of your post is very interesting. I fully relate to your experience. In fact, that is why I am in law school. In my heart after what I went though, I couldn't bring myself to have a regular job paying a regular salary. It was just plain immoral. An attorney's salary is one of the only salaries that can even come close to matching the time-money relationship from my Global Prosperity Group days.

I also didn't know about your biker lifestyle history. Many of us have histories of things we were once involved in which we desire to return to, good or bad. The trick is to always remember that the path of truth isn't necessarily the one which gives the pleasure. Right doesn't mean might. I have to remind myself of this all the time.

portuguesa nova said...

I agree with the others. We've all ben scammed at one time or another, I think it is a mark of adulthood when we realize that you don't get something for nothing...You say being an attorney is the only profession that will allow you the same time-money ratio as the other gig, but that money was never to be, correct?

Some company must be hitting the poor neighborhoods of Chicago big time with some type of insurance/investment scheme because the trains and sidewalks have been FULL of blackmen in hand-me-down mismatched suits all selling phone plans and insurance plans and investment plans.

It is sad when it happens, becuase I think it isn't fair that something like that should erode your faith in humanity.

Cher8899 said...

Zoe strickman, I too was heavily engaged in global prosperity. Would be interesting to talk to you. Reach out to me if you are interested.