Feds raid Snoqualmie company
August 5, 2009 · 8:54 AM
A few computer monitors, stamps and envelopes are all that remains in the Snoqualmie office of Regenesis2x2, a Web-based company promising investors easy profits, after a raid by the United States Secret Service.
According to search warrant documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, federal agents allege the company, which pulled in more than $1.5 million, was a pyramid-style Ponzi scheme run by a 41-year-old Snoqualmie man and a 46-year-old woman working as an elementary-school teaching aide for the Snoqualmie Valley School District. The man is on federal probation for an investment scam he was convicted of running in Nevada.
He declined to comment for this story. The woman could not be reached for comment.
After a five week investigation, Secret Service agents raided the man’s home and vehicle in Snoqualmie, a post-office box in Kirkland and the operation’s office on River Street in Snoqualmie on Friday, July 17.
Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church’s office manager, Jan Van Liew, was at the Snoqualmie Post Office when she saw a Snoqualmie police officer guarding the dumpster behind the professional building.
“I just kind of looked over and saw two men in suits with rubber gloves going through the trash, examining every little piece of paper,” Van Liew said. The men were dressed in dark suits and dark glasses, “like ‘Men in Black.’ I assumed it wasn’t Snoqualmie detectives.”
Despite hauling off computers and boxes of papers, no charges have been filed and no arrests have been made. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Brown in Seattle declined comment, saying only that the investigation is ongoing.
According to search-warrant documents, the Regenesis site, Regenesis2x2.com, was launched in January, and the Secret Service began investigating it in June following a tip that it was a scam. An agent posed as an investor to find out how it operates.
A promotional video on the site showed sun-bathed, jet-setting, smiling people, while promising people they “can say goodbye to traffic, dress codes, and you can finally resign from a j-o-b.”
Individuals could buy a “commission center” for $300, which paid out for new members recruited to join the pyramid. An investor was paid $400 for every six new members he recruited. If he had been recruited by another member, then that person received a $400 matching bonus.
The company pulled in over $1.5 million from hundreds of people who bought into the Web site’s promise of “a simple business plan that empowers you to earn an extraordinary income fast.”
However, in court documents, federal agents allege Regenesis “does not offer any definable product other than promoting the continued operation and expansion of the Regenesis2x2 scheme.”
The Web site makes no claim or mention of any revenue-generating activity aside from membership fees, which cannot sustain the promised returns without continuous growth.
A Federal Trade Commission economist determined that “because of this, the overwhelming majority of the participants cannot expect to make any money,” the Secret Service alleges in court documents.
Several people on Internet forums complained of receiving checks for $400 from Regenesis which bounced.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives the company an F rating, and has at least two serious complaints pending.
Secret Service agents watched the company’s operators throw out several complaints from the Better Business Bureau, clients and a law office accusing it of false marketing, according to court documents.
The 46-year-old woman is listed as Regenesis’ president on the company’s business license. According to the school district’s Web site, she works at Cascade View Elementary School, where her business partner’s children attend school.
The school district did not reply to a request for comment.
Since the economic recession began last year, there has been an increase in the type of operations pushing “work at home scams,” said Niki Horace, spokeswoman for the BBB’s Seattle office. “There are a lot of gullible people out there looking to make money doing nothing.”
The BBB warns consumers to look for red flags before investing money. These include no vetting process of potential investors, soliciting on Craig’s List and not posting contact information online.
“Basically, we tell people, ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’,” she said.