Inbox: Community leaders, elected officials, and former members of nutrition company Herbalife gathered today for the launch of a video campaign against pyramid schemes that lure in unwitting consumers to defraud them and target low-income minority communities in Illinois.
Faces of Fraud: The Real Victims of Herbalife includes 40 testimonials of Illinois residents, many of whom suffered significant financial losses after being recruited to sell Herbalife products that company distributors claimed could cure chronic illnesses and treat severe health problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol.
“These victims are not a statistic,” said Maria Elena Jonas, CEO and President of the Hispanic American Community Education and Services (HACES). “Their stories show that pyramid schemes like Herbalife are causing real harm to real people in our community who are trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.”
Herbalife under investigation
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is currently investigating Herbalife, which has also come under scrutiny by federal regulators at the Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, and by law enforcement officials at the U.S. Department of Justice.
AG Madigan launched the investigation in April 2014. Since then, people have filed formal complaints against the company, claiming financial losses and describing how recruitment was largely based on deceiving consumers that Herbalife was a legitimate business opportunity. Faces of Fraud aims to humanize these concerns by depicting those who were victimized by Herbalife.
“I came forward to file a complaint because Herbalife needs to be held accountable for their actions in our community. We are real people that have lost real money due to Herbalife’s bad business practices,” said Gustavo Urbina, whose testimony is featured in the campaign. Urbina was told that becoming a Herbalife distributer would be his ticket to financial freedom but instead he was scammed and is still in debt from his experience.
A website and Facebook page accompany the videos, and will serve as a platform to share additional victim stories and information for consumers to avoid pyramid schemes.
“We are proud to help these brave individuals share their stories and show their faces,” said Mariela Estrada, Director of Organizing for the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. “We urge AG Madigan to put a stop to these abuses in our communities. Without concrete action, the number of faces will continue to multiply.”