Perth salesman turned entrepreneur Matt Lloyd McPhee has been ordered to hand over a Fijian resort island pay back US authorities $AUD 24.5 million of his own money after swindling worldwide investors out of $190 million.
Matthew Lloyd McPhee started My Online Business Education (MOBE), which sold the dream of financial security to vulnerable aged pensioners as well as war veterans through social media and live events.
The ‘business education program’ offered by MOBE promised a 21-step system with a money-back guarantee and aimed to teach participants how to make millions of dollars from their own internet marketing business.
The program was sold to investors through live events in Australia, Los Angeles, Vancouver, London, Panama and Las Vegas.
People spent up to $USD 84,000 ($AUD 128,485) to join the program in the hopes of becoming financially free.
McPhee purchased the 19-hectare Fijian island, complete with a resort, in 2017 and bragged about his purchase on Instagram.
“Individuals with a high net worth always have money near the top of their hierarchy of values,” he wrote on Instagram in 2018.
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Complaints were lodged to US consumer protection agency the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which explained that MOBE charged a $USD 49 ($AUD 75) entry fee and badgered participants for tens of thousands of dollars to continue the 21-step program.
People who paid would watch McPhee in videos explaining his humble country beginnings in Western Australia.
The FTC has alleged that the MOBE ‘education’ program was worthless and that most people who paid for the expensive memberships were unable to recoup their costs.
“Many experience crippling losses or mounting debts, including some who have lost more than $USD 20,000 ($AUD 30,591),” the FTC said on its website.
MOBE swindled more than $USD 125 million ($AUD 190 million) and shifted the money to offshore accounts.
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The FTC has since sued McPhee along with his associates and after an issue was ruled against McPhee on behalf of all those accused, he was ordered to pay back almost half a billion dollars.
The massive sum of $USD 318,512 ($AUD 583 million) was in ‘equitable monetary relief’, which means some of the money would go to paying back the victims.
He agreed to surrender more than $USD 16 million ($AUD 24.5 million) worth of his own cash and property to the FTC.
McPhee was also ordered to surrender his island in Fiji, as well as his interest in a Costa Rican leisure resort and two apartments in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
McPhee has neither confirmed nor denied any of the allegations, according to court documents.
The FTC has issued a warning to consumers worldwide about internet work-from-home schemes.
“With this action, we've put an end to the MOBE scheme, but consumers should be on guard for any work-at-home pitch promising substantial income.”