Serial Swindler Surrenders Million-Dollar Vegas Home
The settlement concludes the Federal Trade Commission's lengthy case against Richard C. Neiswonger, one that stretches back some 15 years. During that time, he was twice held in contempt of court -- once for deceptively marketing business opportunities in violation of an earlier court order, and again for failing to turn over assets in order to satisfy a multi-million-dollar judgment against him.A repeat offender, Neiswonger first ran afoul of the FTC in 1996, when he was charged in Operation Missed Fortune," which led to a 1997 court order banning him from deceptively promoting business opportunities to consumers, a ban he later violated.
In 2007, a federal district court found Neiswonger, his business partner William S. Reed, and their firm, Asset Protection Group, Inc., in civil contempt for violating the 1997 court order with a get-rich-quick scheme that defrauded consumers out of thousands of dollars each.
Neiswonger, Reed and Asset Protection Group promised consumers with no sales experience that by purchasing their "APG Program," they could become well-paid consultants selling APG's "asset protection" services. The program cost consumers $9,800, for which they received training materials, a one-day training session and a business affiliation with APG, which the defendants claimed would provide them with carefully screened "qualified prospective clients."
Under the APG scam, Consumers were supposed to make money by selling APG's asset protection services to clients who wanted financial privacy and wished to hide assets from potential litigants or creditors. These services included guidance on creating Nevada corporations and offshore corporations. Neiswonger and Reed also promised consumers six-figure incomes, claims they backed up with references.
In reality, consumers paid thousands for ordinary cold call lists, rather than the promised pre-screened clients, and the references were paid to lie about their success with the APG program. Only one APG customer ever earned a six-figure income, while approximately 94% of the "consultants" failed to earn enough to cover the $9,800 they paid for the program.
The 2007 contempt ruling also found Neiswonger failed to disclose "significant facts" to consumers, including his time spent in federal prison for money laundering and wire fraud. In addition to another ban against fraudulent marketing activities, Neiswonger was fined $3.2 million-the amount he'd swindled from consumers.
Neiswonger was also ordered to transfer the title of his Las Vegas home to a court-appointed receiver within 20 days if he failed to pay the judgment in full. The swindler never paid the $3.2 million fine, and in 2009, at the FTC's request, the district court held him in contempt again and ordered him to turn over his house or face jail time.
Under the final settlement order, Neiswonger agreed to drop all appeals and surrender his million-dollar Vegas home. His wife, Shannon Neiswonger, who was not a defendant, will be paid $100,000 from the proceeds of the sale of the house, which she owned jointly with him. The FTC had already confiscated Neiswonger's $379,000 retirement account to help pay the fine.
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