Seattle - Sept. 19, 2001 - Attorney General Christine Gregoire today continued her campaign against Internet fraud by suing a web-based company that markets a work-at-home program considered to be an illegal pyramid scheme.
In a complaint filed in Kitsap County Superior Court, the AG's High-Tech Unit accused SJ Gabel, a Bremerton company, and its owners, Susan J. Gabel and Claudette Richardson, of violating the state's Chain Distribution Scheme Act and Consumer Protection Act.
"This Internet scheme victimizes the growing number of people in our state who are unemployed and looking for work," Gregoire said. "Like pyramid schemes everywhere, it promises needy people big money, but delivers nothing."
According to the lawsuit, SJ Gabel uses the Internet to market a home-based work program that promises clerical jobs, some of which pay as much as $1,000 a week. To qualify, however, consumers must pay $14.95.
Instead of offering these positions, consumers receive materials containing instructions how to earn a $3 commission for each new participant the consumer enrolls in the program.
SJ Gabel, attorneys contend, also offers a "Telecommuting Jobs Directory" that purportedly contains "hundreds of available telecommuting positions." However, none of the companies listed offer home-based telecommuting positions of any kind, the complaint alleges.
"This case unfortunately proves once again how easy it is for some people to use the Internet to illegally enrich themselves at the expense of others," Gregoire said
Attorneys say consumers who complained about the program received e-mails that contained veiled threats of legal action or described their complaints as "unprofessional tactics" that could be shared with prospective employers.
So far, the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has received at least 26 complaints about the firm. The AG's complaint seeks unspecified civil penalties and restitution to those who were harmed in the scheme.