Kansas City, MO - On May 17, 2011, a local businessman was ordered to return $10.4 Million in fraudulently obtained funds. Lance Murkin, whose work-at-home opportunities have attracted considerable BBB attention over the past fifteen years, has been put out of business following a fifteen month legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission.
Since Murkin founded Real Wealth, Inc. in 1996, the Better Business Bureau has investigated almost innumerable misleading advertisements by Mr. Murkin. Real Wealth, Inc. also operated as American Financial Publications, Emerald Press, Financial Research, Global Direct Marketing, Midwest Marketing, Pacific Press, United Financial Publications, Wealth Research, and others. All incarnations of the company advertised either fraudulent work-at-home schemes or grant scams. Mr. Murkin had an alias for each scheme.
This was not the first time Murkin had been exposed as a scammer. He entered into a voluntary compliance agreement with the Attorney General of Missouri Jay Nixon in 2007, in which he agreed to return money made from a grant scam. The Better Business Bureau provided information to the Attorney General’s office for that case. In November 2009 a local Los Angeles news agency asked the BBB for information on one of Murkin’s more outlandish and short-lived schemes that convinced people to ask celebrities for money. The news story drew the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, who contacted the BBB for information later that month. The BBB had collected data on Mr. Murkin and his companies for more than a decade. A Better Business Bureau representative agreed to provide a declaration to be submitted in evidence and testimony on behalf of the prosecution if the case reached trial.
In addition to testimony, the BBB also provided vast information on Mr. Murkin’s business names, aliases, advertising practices, his victims, his attorney and his websites. The most beneficial contributions by the BBB to the case were a series of ad-reviews conducted between 2001 and 2009 that asked Mr. Murkin to substantiate earnings claims (such as “You can make $2,800 per week!”). He refused to substantiate any of them.
Mr. Murkin defended many of his scams by claiming that the advertisements were reviewed and approved by his longtime attorney, Thayer Lindauer, before they were disseminated. Murkin stated in a letter to the BBB, “Mr. Lindauer has over 30 years experience as a marketing attorney and reviews all of our advertising and marketing campaigns as well as the structure of our products BEFORE they are made public to assure they are 100% in compliance with all state and federal regulations pertaining to advertising and marketing.” Mr. Lindauer has a history of representing multi-level marketers who get into legal trouble for false advertising. In 1997, he represented High Opportunity Petroleum Enterprises (HOPE) when its owner was convicted of false representations. He gave advertising advice to Richard Dompier’s illegal pyramid scheme before United States brought charges against Dompier. Mr. Murkin also should have taken note of the court case FTC v. Amy Travel Service, Inc., in which the court held that “the blessing of an attorney” does not make advertisements truthful.
The FTC froze Murkin’s assets and began the long slow road to justice. After more than a year of legal maneuvering, Murkin filed Bankruptcy on March 25, 2011, unable to outlast the FTC’s deft legal team. Less than two months later, a judgment was handed down by a Federal Judge that Murkin was to return $10.4 million in fraudulently obtained funds, from 2004-2010, and was banned from ever again being involved in work-at-home opportunities or grant marketing.
Lance now plays in a cover band at bars.