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Ponzi Empire on the Internet?

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Bankcard Empire, a telemarketer, and a slew of affiliates are accused of running "a modern version of a Ponzi scheme, centering around false advertising and claims of major investment return in Internet advertising and marketing campaigns." A Ventura couple claim Bankcard stole $50,000 from them by charging it to their credit cards without permission, after drawing them into "a sham business opportunity that involves the leasing of merchant credit card processing machines."

In their Superior Court complaint, Mike and Susan Lindsay say Bankcard promised they would receive commissions from leasing equipment and 50 percent of all monthly credit card processing revenues.

"The promise made by defendants ... is that for a cash investment in their Internet marketing and advertising campaigns, plaintiffs will earn high rates of return," the complaint states. "Of course, the only real money being made is the money being made by defendants, as the promises of investment return are knowingly false and misleading."

Mike Lindsay says that in June 2009 he spoke with a Bankcard representative, who "informed him that he could earn additional income by purchasing a business opportunity for $495. He was told that this was a ground level opportunity, that he could earn money from referrals, credit card processing, advertising responses, and that he could recoup his initial investment 'on average' in 1 or 2 months. He was told a packet would be sent out to him to review and sign."

Lindsay said he agreed to have the packet sent to him, then almost immediately began getting calls at home from Bankcard, asking if he had received it. Bankcard also offered him "additional opportunities" over the phone, and Lindsay says he gave Bankcard his credit card information under the promise that he could call back if he changed his mind.

Lindsay says he did change his mind, but "was told by Bankcard Empire that it was too late, that he already authorized the charges, and that he could not be refunded." Lindsay says he never authorized Bankcard to charge his credit card. His wife says she signed a shipping confirmation receipt when she received envelopes from Bankcard, and that the defendants "intentionally forged Susan Lindsay's signature as it appeared on the shipping receipt confirmation, and transposed the signature onto credit card authorization slips."

The complaint states that Bankcard has been sent a cease and desist order by the securities division of Illinois, and that its offices in Phoenix were raided in April 2010 by the U.S. Postal Inspection service.

"The raids sought evidence, individuals and entities all relating to the Bankcard Empire scam ... Truckloads of records and computer equipment were seized," the complaint states.

Leslie Mersky, the father of Bankcard Empire president David Mersky, was arrested on charges of fraud and forgery, according to the complaint.

To top it off, the Lindsays say, Bankcard has the brass to have filed legal action against people who complain about the alleged scam.

Twenty defendants are named, including Universal Marketing Concepts LLC, AIG Promotions LLC, Edgemont Productions LLC, Automated Business Group and Ultimate Business Solutions LLC.

The Lindsays demand punitive damages for fraud, conspiracy, concealment and conversion. They are represented by Kevin Chaffin of Ventura.

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