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FTC in settlements on work-at-home businesses

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Federal Trade Commission said it has agreed to settle cases against 20 corporate and individual defendants that it says had defrauded consumers that were trying to launch their own online businesses.

The defendants are permanently banned from selling work-at-home businesses, and most face suspended $17.9 million judgments under the settlements, the agency said Thursday.

The FTC said that the defendants told people that they would create and host websites and give marketing help so that consumers could profit when shoppers clicked through the websites to buy items from major retailers.

The agency identified the defendants as North America Marketing and Associates LLC, NAMAA LLC, TM Multimedia Marketing LLC (Nevada), TM Multimedia Marketing LLC (Arizona), National Opportunities LLC (Nevada), National Opportunities LLC (Arizona), World Wide Marketing and Associates LLC, Wide World of Marketing LLC, Precious Metals Resource LLC, Guaranteed Communications LLC and Superior Multimedia Group LLC.

In May, the FTC said it ordered North America Marketing to stop its business and froze its assets. The agency said that as consumer complaints mounted, North America Marketing shut down operations and reopened under new names.

The FTC said the defendants also include Joseph Wayne Lowry, Kimberly Joy Birdsong, Sarah Lynne Stapel, Alyisse Maloi Tramel, Daniel Vigil and Tracy Jerome Morris as well as Sheila Ann Lowry, who allegedly profited from the illegal practices. It said an amended complaint names Carl Edward Morris Jr. and Marketing Strategies LLC as liability defendants.

The defendants, with the exception of Stapel, each face a $17.9 million suspended judgment, the agency said, while Stapel is subject to a $78,070 judgment. It said the judgments against Stapel and Morris are suspended because they are unable to pay. The FTC said the judgments of the other individual defendants will be suspended once they pay certain amounts, and the corporate defendants' judgments will be suspended when they surrender frozen funds.

The FTC said full judgments will be due immediately if it's determined the defendants misrepresented their financial condition.