(CN) — Texas sued a husband and wife Tuesday and asked a state judge to freeze their company’s assets based on claims they are running a pyramid scheme that has defrauded Black people across the U.S. of tens of millions of dollars.
LaShonda and Marlon Moore, of the Dallas suburb Prosper, Texas, started Blessings in No Time last August, touting it as a “linkfunding” business in which people can overcome financial obstacles, from medical bills to their children’s college tuition, or raise money for worthy causes, through fundraising involving family, friends and kind strangers.
In truth, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claims, the Moores are running a pyramid scheme in which they lure people with promises of $11,200 returns on their $1,400 to $1,425 membership fees if they recruit others to sign up.
It is curious, Paxton says, that the membership dues are the same amount as coronavirus stimulus checks the federal government issued to most Americans earlier this year.
He sued the couple and their company Tuesday in Collin County District Court, seeking an injunction ordering them to disgorge their ill-gotten gains plus civil penalties of $10,000 for each alleged violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and $250,000 if the violation involved a person age 65 or older.
The Moores present their enterprise with an air of religiosity. They call a document including the company’s membership bylaws and code of conduct the BINT Bible.
Since January, the state has received nearly 200 complaints about the company from Texans, alleging more than $700,000 in losses, according to the lawsuit.
It includes a complaint from a purported victim whose name has been redacted. They wrote: “Blessings in No Time (BINT LLC) was presented as a Godly, All-Black, socially conscious gifting community that came about on the tail-end of a lot of this past summer protest [sic].”
The BINT member says the Moores gave assurances it was not a pyramid scam, and instilled confidence with their company’s “heavily documented refund guarantees.”
The member says he or she brought six family members into BINT’s program. All seven of them asked for refunds in October and November. “They promised 7-10 business days for refunds, as of 3/4/21, still no refunds,” the complainant wrote.
The Moores allegedly concealed their scam with rules that called for membership termination of anyone that posted negative comments about BINT in any forum.
“Many victims were deterred from exercising their rights to speak out and warn others about defendants' illegal scheme out of fear they would lose their rights to a refund and other compensation they were due from defendants,” the lawsuit states.
But the Moores admitted in a Zoom meeting in January their bank account for refunds had been depleted.
Paxton claims the couple duped victims by playing up their celebrity connections.
Marlon Moore, a Dallas native who used to go by Marlon Maiden, quit his day job selling insurance to make his DJing hobby a career, eventually landing a resident DJ spot on Black Entertainment Television’s music video show “106 and Park,” which was canceled in 2014, according to a May 2017 article in D Magazine.
The Moores showed a proclivity for extravagance at their August 2019 wedding.
They hired an aerialist for entertainment, included “24-karat gold flatware” in table settings, had LaShonda’s dress and her bridesmaids’ dresses custom made in Australia, and Marlon surprised LaShonda by having his jacket lined with their engagement photos, according to a feature by CultureMap Dallas.
While no doubt expensive, their wedding costs pale in comparison to the damages Texas is seeking from the couple.
“The state seeks monetary relief in excess of $1,000,000, including civil penalties, consumer redress, attorney's fees and costs,” the lawsuit states.
Texas, through Paxton, also seeks a restraining order freezing the Moores’ assets and blocking them from promoting their alleged pyramid scheme and from destroying records.
A phone number listed for Blessing in No Time plays a message saying the person trying to be reached is not accepting calls.
Paxton did not respond Tuesday to an email asking if a criminal complaint has been filed against the Moores.
“BINT scammed Texans out of money by exploiting their deeply-held religious faith during a national crisis. This is despicable behavior, and BINT will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said in a statement.Follow @cam_langford
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