FTC Action Leads to Ban for Owners of E-Commerce Money-Making Scheme

A federal court had temporarily shut down Automators AI E-Commerce Money-Making Scheme, a deceptive business opportunity that conned consumers into investing $22 million in online stores. The operators, Roman Cresto, John Cresto, and Andrew Chapman, have agreed to surrender assets and face a lifetime ban on selling e-commerce business opportunities. The scheme promised high returns using AI technology but most clients lost money. The settlement order includes a permanent ban on offering e-commerce business opportunities, a prohibition on deceptive earnings claims, and the requirement for the defendants to provide refunds to affected consumers. The orders also contain a monetary judgment of $21,765,902.65, partially suspended based on the defendant’s financial status.

On September 8, 2023, the court issued a stipulated preliminary injunction order that continued the asset freeze and appointed a receiver over the Receivership Entities. The plaintiff, defendants, and relief defendant have agreed to the entry of a stipulated order for permanent injunction and monetary judgment to resolve all matters in dispute. The court has jurisdiction over the case, and the FTC alleges that the defendants have violated the FTC Act, the Business Opportunity Rule, and the CRFA. The defendants and relief defendant neither admit nor deny the allegations in the complaint, except as stated in the order. They also waive and release any claims against the Commission and the Receiver related to this action.

The defendants operated through Empire Ecommerce LLC and Onyx Distribution LLC, offering consumers the opportunity to become “silent partners” in a profitable ecommerce operation. They promised to expertly manage online stores on behalf of their partners, but in reality, most purchasers did not earn the advertised income and lost their entire investment. The online stores established and managed by Empire LLC were suspended and terminated by platforms like Amazon and Walmart, leaving clients banned from selling. After their business imploded, the defendants restarted their scheme under the name Automators AI, defrauding consumers of tens of thousands of dollars each.

The FTC’s complaint alleged that the defendants violated the FTC Act, the Business Opportunity Rule, and the Consumer Review Fairness Act. The Business Opportunity Rule requires disclosures and prohibits deceptive practices related to business opportunities. The defendants marketed and sold the business opportunities and coaching services, and funneled consumer payments to the individual defendants. The FTC is seeking injunctive relief, monetary relief, and other forms of relief to put an end to these deceptive practices and protect consumers.

Original FTC release: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2024/02/ftc-action-leads-ban-owners-automators-ai-e-commerce-money-making-scheme