The key perpetrators of a massive international business coaching scheme known as My Online Business Education (MOBE) have agreed to pay more than $17 million as part of settlements with the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC’s complaint, filed in 2018, alleged that MOBE, a Malaysian company, lured consumers to join its online coaching program by promising a pathway to online entrepreneurship and vast riches on the internet, but then charged these consumers tens of thousands of dollars for worthless program membership upgrades.
According to the complaint, MOBE used online ads, social media, and live events to target U.S. consumers and swindled hundreds of millions of dollars, which the company then transferred to its various offshore bank accounts.
“MOBE falsely promised consumers that it could teach them how to start a successful online business and earn six-figure incomes working from home, and consumers lost millions of dollars as a result,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “With this action, we’ve put an end to the MOBE scheme, but consumers should be on guard for any work-at-home pitch promising substantial income.”
Under the terms of the proposed stipulated final order against MOBE founder Matthew Lloyd McPhee, an Australian citizen who lives in Malaysia, McPhee would surrender more than $16 million from his personal and company accounts to the FTC. He would also be required to surrender his foreign real estate interests, including his ownership shares of resorts in Fiji and Costa Rica, to MOBE’s court-appointed receiver under terms previously approved by the court. The proposed order would also permanently ban McPhee from selling business coaching programs and investment opportunities.
The FTC has also settled claims against the estate of deceased defendant Russell Whitney. As required under the terms of this stipulated final order, which the district court approved in December 2019, the estate has surrendered more than $1.3 million held in Whitney’s various accounts to the FTC.
The FTC previously announced a settlement with defendant Susan Zanghi in December 2018. The FTC is seeking default judgments against the remaining defendants, including MOBE Ltd.
The Commission votes approving the stipulated final orders with McPhee and Whitney’s estate were each 5-0. The FTC filed the proposed orders in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
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