Online business

Arizona man charged with online business scam to pay $1.4 million

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – An Arizona man sold big promises of big profits to dozens of people across the country, but the paydays never happened. Now Robert Contreras and his companies are on the hook for $1.4 million in restitution and fines, 3 On Your Side has learned.

Richard Worden, a missionary who lives in Long Beach, California, is one of the victims. He needed money for a project in Africa. When told he could make money selling items online, he agreed to donate money for a new venture. “Clothes and shoes. You can choose whatever you want, I was told,” Worden recalled. “I had no idea what it would cost to build a website and get the products and everything, so every time I turned around, they needed another $10,000.”

There was technically a website, but it wasn’t the money generator that Worden promised. “I almost threw up when I saw it,” he said. “By then, I had used up all of our retirement money.” Worden’s loss totaled approximately $45,000. He filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s office. He was not the only one. “There were casualties across the country,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich told 3 On Your Side.

“In exchange for thousands of fees, [Robert] The Contreras companies provided amateurish, substandard website development, simply placing different names on the same few generic templates,” the Arizona Attorney General’s office said.(AGTV/Arizona Attorney General’s Office)

“Basically, it was crap. It was a scam.”

According to a civil lawsuit filed against Robert Contreras and his companies – Publishertech LLC, Publisher Wealth Corporation and Upstarter, LLC – consumers were solicited by telephone. The caller “offered to sell a business opportunity by claiming that consumers could earn a substantial income by selling goods online.”

According to the Arizona Attorney General's Office, Richard Contreras and his companies were scammed...
According to the Arizona Attorney General’s office, Richard Contreras and his companies scammed more than 80 people for an amount of approximately $500,000.(Arizona family)

“It was basically junk,” Brnovich said. “It was a scam.” And it was expensive. According to the complaint, more than 80 victims lost a total of approximately $500,000. “If someone contacts you, if they initiate contact, that’s something you should be wary of,” Brnovich warned. “If someone doesn’t want you talking about it with your friends and family, that’s something you should be wary of. And always, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.

The defendants have agreed to a settlement and owe $1.4 million — $500,000 and an additional $900,000 in fines. “Furthermore, Contreras is prohibited from again selling Internet marketing business opportunities and services in Arizona,” the Arizona attorney general’s office said. This means financial relief and peace of mind for Worden. “I was thrilled to find out that we could stop people going through what I went through,” Worden said.

3 On Your Side contacted the attorney representing Contreras and his companies to comment on the case, but did not hear back.

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