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UNITED STATES POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE



Tuesday, February 22, 2005

U.S. Postal Inspectors, Federal Trade Commission, and Department of Justice dismantle business-opportunity scams

Project Biz Opp Flop results in more than 200 civil and criminal actions against perpetrators of fraudulent money-making schemes in 13 states

Washington, DC -- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Justice today announced the results of a joint investigation that generated more than 200 arrests and other enforcement actions against scam artists who turned the American dream of running a small business into a costly nightmare.

Project Biz Opp Flop -- which involved federal agents, police officers, and U.S. Attorney's Offices in 13 states -- marked an unprecedented collaborative effort among civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the battle against misleading claims and bogus money-making schemes. And the crackdown on fraudsters continues.

Earlier today in the state of Florida -- where one of the largest investigations was focused -- Postal Inspectors obtained and served arrest and search warrants for more than a dozen fraudulent business-scheme operators.

"Our partnerships with the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, state and local law enforcement, and consumer protection agencies should reassure the American public there are dedicated professionals working as a team to protect the citizens of this great country and putting criminals in jail," said Chief Postal Inspector Lee Heath.

According to Chief Inspector Heath, fraudulent business opportunities are just one of the many scams that continue to jeopardize the financial security of the American public. But Postal Inspectors have unique investigative tools to disrupt these fraud schemes through the use of criminal and civil powers.

In fact, Postal Inspectors have arrested 28 suspects in schemes that victimized more than 140,000 consumers, with estimated losses exceeding $73 million.

Just as important, Postal Inspectors have obtained 53 civil actions that prevented criminals from collecting additional profits, thus protecting unknowing consumers from being victimized.

"Fraud is big business, so we also have an obligation and responsibility to educate the American public to help prevent consumers from becoming victims of fraudulent schemes," said Chief Inspector Heath.

Two weeks ago, during National Consumer Protection Week, the Inspection Service and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Consumer Affairs launched a national fraud-prevention campaign focusing on work-at-home schemes.

Fraud-prevention advertisements placed in newspapers and magazines, along with information posted on the Inspection Service Web site, reached more than 30 million consumers. In addition, more than 50,000 pieces of fraud-prevention material -- in English and in Spanish -- were mailed to law enforcement, consumer protection agencies, and Post Offices nationwide.

"Postal Inspectors have consistently met the challenges presented by those who would take advantage of the trust, confidence, and security of the U.S. Mail," said Chief Inspector Heath. "Through strong law enforcement actions, consumer education, and law enforcement partnerships, we have the key components of a well-balanced strategy to protect the American public and their financial security."



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