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Jamaicans latch on to new get-rich-quick scheme despite US-based company denying it is operating locally

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMTyrone Thompson

Despite hundreds of persons being bilked out of millions of dollars in failed Ponzi schemes Jamaicans continue to gravitate towards get-rich-quick schemes with the latest being World Ventures (WV) Holdings. However, the company, which is based in the United States, has indicated that it has no knowledge of the local operation.

"We have no offices in Jamaica and so they are not supposed to be selling memberships to WV in Jamaica," a company official, who identified himself only as 'David', told The Sunday Gleaner from Texas last week.

"We have offices in many other countries, but wherever we go, we have to abide by the rules of that country, and at this time, we have not been given approval to operate in Jamaica, and so those persons who are selling may have slipped through the cracks. But if our compliance office is made aware of those accounts, they will be shut down," added David.

But Jamaicans who have already bought into the scheme are undaunted as they swear that this is their chance to get rich.

"My friend Joel is a Central Village (St Catherine) youth who was able to move his parents out of the ghetto and put them at Jacks Hill (St Andrew) and take care of them. He just bought a BMW 335 custom-built," said one local recruiter for WV, who gave his name as 'Raymond'.

He insisted that the scheme is authentic and a chance for him and many other Jamaicans to make their way out of a life of poverty.

Raymond now moves around the island trying to woo persons to invest in WV, with promises of lavish vacation packages and huge earnings of United States dollars.

The website of the US-based WV Holdings describes it as a travel and leisure company which utilises the Internet and "word-of-mouth marketing" to sell vacation packages it buys in bulk.

Individuals receive membership by paying an enrolment fee ranging from US$153 (J$18,000) to US$361 (J$42,000), and a monthly fee of US$61 (J$7,076).

According to the company, members get the opportunity to access vacation packages at reduced rates, and the opportunity to earn a monthly wage if they are able to recruit six other persons to the club.

The company's website lists locations in North America, Europe, Africa, and the US dependent Puerto Rico. No offices are listed in Jamaica or the rest of the Caribbean.

 

SELLING MEMBERSHIPS

 

The lack of a physical presence in the island, however, has not prevented persons from claiming to be associated with the company and to sell memberships.

Armed with promises of cheap luxury cruises, six-figure earnings, and luxury cars, the vendors have been holding presentations across the island in a bid to recruit as many persons as possible to the club.

"When you refer six people [to World Ventures], you get US$450. Each person that you refer who refers somebody else, you get paid, and this goes infinitely down, so there is no cap on your earnings," said Raymond.

"My personal brethren and some other guys pulling in US$4.5 million a month right now. My brethren who is a final-year medical student at the University of the West Indies, WV just bought him a 2015 Mercedes-Benz in December, so it's pretty sweet," added Raymond.

Similarly, claims were about cheap trips and vacation packages when one becomes a member of WV.

"We have access to some sweet deals. For instance, five days, four nights at Riu Grand in Jamaica is US$1,700. However, in our company, that same package plus a lot more is just US$350. So we can't be compared to anybody, and if you find the same trip cheaper anywhere else, you will get your money back and go on the trip for free," declared Raymond.

Terrence, who has also signed up for WV locally, told The Sunday Gleaner that while he had only recently joined, he was aggressively trying to recruit more persons, as only by recruiting a minimum of six individuals would he start making the "big money".

"So remember when you get six persons to sign up and they get others to sign up, you are earning from that too, so in order for you to make the big money, the people you sign up have to remain active and pay their monthly fees, so what you have to do is encourage everybody to keep signing up new people so they can earn for themselves," said Terrence.

 

NO LOCAL OPERATIONS

 

However, the WV official in the United States refused to comment on these claims, repeating that it has no operations in Jamaica.

World Venture Holdings has been under a cloud of suspicion after its operations were adjudged to be a pyramid scheme by the Norwegian Gaming Board last year. The Norwegian authorities concluded that the company's revenues came almost exclusively from recruiting members and not from the sale of vacation packages as it claims, and so banned its operations in the country, and subsequently denied an appeal to reopen offices there.

While not commenting on the company's woes in Norway, the WV official said the company is serious about following the laws in all countries in which it operates, but Jamaica was not one of those countries.

Kathleen, another WV representative based in Texas, reiterated that the company has no offices in the English-speaking Caribbean and thereby no representatives in Jamaica.

"No, sir, we do not service Jamaica, and so I would not recommend you buying memberships from anyone there because we do not do business there," affirmed Kathleen.

 

Police okay, FSC mum

on World Ventures

 

The local authority to monitor investment schemes, the Financial Services Commission (FSC), is yet to comment on the latest get-rich-quick scheme operating in Jamaica, World Ventures (WV) Holdings.

The company's head office in the United States has indicated that it has no operations in Jamaica despite the growing popularity of the scheme, which supposedly offers millions of US dollars in returns and dirt-cheap hotel visits.

Efforts to get a comment from the FSC last week were unsuccessful up to press time.

But even as the FSC response is delayed, the head of the Police Fraud Squad, Superintendent Anthony McClaughlin, told The Sunday Gleaner his detectives are aware of the activities of alleged representatives in the country, but are satisfied that this is above board.

"Yes, we do know about them, and I am satisfied that they are a legitimate company, even though they don't have an office in Jamaica. From what I gather, they are authorised to operate by World Ventures in Jamaica," said McClaughlin.

tyrone.thompson@gleanerjm.com