An operation that was charged with deceptively marketing candy vending machine business opportunities will give back $122,000 to consumers who invested in it. The Federal Trade Commission charged that the operation lured consumers by falsely promising big incomes and prime locations for the machines, and hiring shills to reinforce the earnings claims.
The operation advertised that consumers could make “$1,710 per week” after buying its candy vending machine business opportunities and promised “prime locations” that had already been secured. Prices ranged from $7,000 to $59,000, and were supposed to include everything needed to start a business: vending machines; a recommended, professional locator service; and support to launch the business. The FTC’s complaint charged the operation made false earnings claims and deceptive representations about available locations, provided phony references, and did not provide complete and accurate required disclosure documents.
The orders announced today settle the charges against all of the defendants: Harvey Frank Milner, Richard M. Norcross, and Richard D. Norcross, as well as the companies – Route Wizard, Inc.; Liberty Routes, Inc.; Ready Routes, Inc.; RouteCrafters, Inc.; Ca$h Route$, Inc.; NovaStar Vending, Inc.; and Alliance Locating Co., Inc.
The orders prohibit the defendants from misrepresenting any business venture and prohibit false earnings claims or misrepresentations about locations. The orders prohibit the use of shills and prohibit the defendants from violating the Franchise Rule or the Business Opportunity Rule, including failing to provide a complete and accurate disclosure document to consumers, and failing to have a reasonable basis for any earnings claims.
Harvey Frank Milner and his wife, Janice Wood-Milner, will give up $42,000 – the total amount of money that they received from the scheme. Richard M. Norcross and his wife, Summer L. Norcross, will pay $30,000, based on their financial disclosures. Richard D. Norcross and his wife, Sasikant L. Norcross, will pay $50,000, also based on their financial disclosures. The wives of the defendants are not accused of wrongdoing, but have allegedly received ill-gotten gains and do not have a legitimate claim to them.
The orders for Richard M. Norcross, Richard D. Norcross, and the corporate defendants entered a judgment of $3,382,070.61 – the total amount consumers paid – against them, which is suspended, based on sworn financial disclosure documents. The order for Sasikant L. Norcross enters a judgement of $113,445 – the total amount she received – against her, which is also suspended. The suspended judgment amounts will be due in full, minus any payments already made by other defendants, if a defendant lied about his or her financial status.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the stipulated final orders was 5-0. The stipulated final orders for permanent injunction were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.
NOTE: These stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge. -Federal Trade Commission