SEATTLE -- The Attorney General's High-Tech Unit, which was created to battle crime and fraud on the Internet, has achieved a victory by forcing a Kitsap County-based website to stop pitching illegal pyramid and Ponzi schemes.
In a consent decree filed earlier this month in Kitsap County Superior Court, Berry Ball, who operates the website called "Detailshere.com," doesn't admit to any wrongdoing, but pledges that his website will not promote illegal pyramid or Ponzi schemes or claim that programs listed on his website are risk-free, tax-free or cost-free when they're not.
"Some call cyberspace the new 'frontier of fraud.' This settlement is a clear signal that -- even on the Internet -- fraud and deception will not be tolerated. We will do whatever is necessary to protect consumers," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire.
Ball was accused by the state last October of violating the state's Chain Distributor Schemes Act by promoting the illegal pyramid and Ponzi schemes, all of which were cloaked in a variety of legitimate-sounding descriptions, such as "investment opportunities," "gifting programs," "art opportunities" and "offshore accounts."
Pyramid and Ponzi schemes are similar, but differ slightly in their structure. Both, however, depend on a steady stream of money from new investors to pay returns to those who joined earlier. Both schemes are illegal under Washington law.
Under the settlement, Ball will pay a total of $43,461. Up to $20,000 of that amount will be used as restitution for consumers. In addition, Ball will pay $14,000 in civil penalties and $9,461 in costs and attorneys fees.
Under the terms of the settlement, Ball must post a notice on his the website informing consumers that restitution is available. The notice will direct consumers to the Attorney General's Office, which will then determine if a consumer is entitled to restitution. Eligibility depends on a variety of factors, including the amount and type of investment consumers made through Ball's website.
The High-Tech Unit is charged with enforcing the state's consumer protection laws by focusing on violations committed in cyberspace, supporting local police and prosecutors in their fight against online crime and educating the public on how to avoid being victimized.
An electronic version of this release and a copy of the consent decree can be found on the Attorney General's homepage: http://www.atg.wa.gov/