SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – A married couple claim they gave up profitable jobs to work as “independent distributors” for Trivani, a “multi-level marketing company,” only to find out that it was run by a woman who was in prison. The plaintiffs say the woman’s son lured them to work for Trivani, which sells nutritional products, by telling them they would “literally be sponsoring an actual starving child” by doing so.
Gordon and Sachiko Oswald claim Bob Steed recruited them to work as distributors in his mother’s multi-level marketing company, Trivani, while she was serving a 16-month federal sentence for tax fraud.
Steed’s mother, Leslie DeeAnn Mower, reassumed leadership of Trivani when she was released, the Oswalds say in their complaint in Utah County Court.
The Oswalds say Mower then modified distributor agreements cut the budget “as she deemed necessary.”
The Oswalds say they were earning $48,000 a month as distributors for nonparty Unicity, when Steed lured them away by, among other things, telling them that “each distributor would literally be an actual starving child that was in need.” But they add that “Steed knew or should have known that money given from the charity or the company does not go directly to the support of an actual starving child.”
When Steed’s mom returned, the Oswalds says, she told them she “did not care about the agreements, would not honor them, grabbed the documents out of Gordon’s hands, and threw them on the desk” during a meeting. Mower told them “she would pray about whether she should honor the written agreements or not, and would inform Mr. Oswald the following day by email of what the Lord would reveal to her,” according to the complaint.
The Oswalds say that they “and other distributors worldwide began questioning and researching Trivani’s business practices and charity claims” because of Mower’s “bizarre” and “condescending behavior.”
The Oswalds say Mower and Steed fired them and “forged” and “fabricated” emails and “informed third parties that Gordon made a death threat to Mower.”
Those lies were just a few from a long string of them, the Oswalds say.
“The vast majority, if any, of the children Trivani claims to sponsor are not starving as claimed. They provide children for distributors to ‘sponsor’ by taking pictures of school students from schools and then pass these children off as starving,” according to the complaint.
The Oswalds claim Steed told them his mother had donated $100 million of her own money to start The Trivani Foundation, the charity associated with the company, but tax records show she actually set up the foundation with only $4,000.
The Oswalds demand millions for lost wages, legal fees and punitive damages. They also seek publication “to the general public and delivered to all Trivani distributors recanting the false allegations of a death threat.”
Named as defendants are Trivani LLC, Trivani International LLC, Steed and Mower.
The Oswalds are represented by Chad Shattuck with Tycksen & Shattuck of Draper, Utah.