SEC sues top Zeek Rewards promoter Trudy Gilmond
Trudy Gilmond was one of the top earners in the Zeek Rewards Ponzi scheme.
For her efforts, Gilmond was named a net-winner and was sued by the court-appointed Zeek Rewards Receiver.
The Receiver sought $1.7 million from Gilmond, which would see her return all of the money she stole from investors.
Gilmond responded to the Receiver’s lawsuit with a motion to dismiss, a demand for $140,000 (plus interest) and payment of court costs.
Separately, the SEC has now filed its own lawsuit against Gilmond.
According to the SEC, Gilmond (right)
was one of the most successful and prolific promoters ofZeekRewards. From at least September 2011 until ZeekRewards was shut down in August 2012, Gilmond worked closely with the company founders and served as a senior “field liaison” to promote the scheme, persuading scores of unsophisticated retail investors to buy ZeekRewards securities upon the promise of profit sharing.
Through “Team Fired Up”, Gilmond
attract(ed) followers and new recruits to join her “downline” in numerous MLM programs (several of which ultimately collapsed in a fashion similar to ZeekRewards).
What the SEC are otherwise very politely stating, is that Gilmond is a serial scammer.
Following her profiting in similar Ponzi schemes to Zeek, Gilmond was recruited into Zeek Rewards by Dawn Wright-Olivares in January 2011.
Gilmond operated a full-time business soliciting new affiliates and helping her “downline” recruits to solicit even more investors as “customers.”
She purchased customer leads, posted advertisements, and distributed business cards to identify new investors-customers.
She also spoke at company events and hosted live promotional and training conference calls with Wright-Olivares and other ZeekRewards insiders to pitch the ZeekRewards scheme to prospective investors and to guide new affiliates in their own recruiting efforts.
She helped enroll investors as “affiliates,” entitling them to share in the scheme’s purported profits.
Zeek Rewards must have been a dream for Gilmond, who went on to hit the Ponzi jackpot with the scheme.
Through a marketing campaign devoid of ethics and morals, Gilmonds time at Zeek saw her prey on the uneducated and desperate.
Neither Gilmond nor any RVG personnel made any effort to determine if investors in fact had:
(1) the financial wherewithal to invest (e.g., sufficient income and assets); or
(2) experience with complex investments before offering them the opportunity to invest in ZeekRewards.
In fact, thousands of ZeekRewards investors lacked significant financial resources and were financially unsophisticated.
With respect to Gilmond’s specific role within Zeek Rewards, the SEC assert:
As a combined Ponzi and pyramid scheme, ZeekRewards depended on promoters like Gilmond to persuade new investors to join as affiliates to maintain a constant influx of new capital to be paid to prior investors.
Gilmond directed members of her “Team Fired Up” and other prospective investors to the ZeekRewards website, which made false representations about daily net profits and daily dividends paid to Qualified Affiliates.
Based on Gilmond’s efforts and the misstatements on the website, many of Gilmond’s team members ultimately purchased the ZeekRewards securities, earning Gilmond substantial commissions.
As a field liaison, Gilmond had access to portions of ZeekRewards’ internal electronic investor database so that she could make adjustments to individual accounts to address her affiliates’ concerns or complaints.
Having worked closely with the company founders and insiders to promote the scheme in her role as a senior field liaison, and given her prior experience with similar MLM programs that ultimately collapsed, Gilmond knew or should have known that the ZeekRewards scheme’s outsize returns (averaging 1.5% per day) were too good to be true and could not be sustained.
Nevertheless, Gilmond worked full time for at least a year touting the potential fortunes that could be made by becoming a ZeekRewards affiliate.
Gilmond’s sales pitch involved explaining the mechanics of the ZeekRewards program, its compensation structure, and the supposed merits of the investment.
No doubt Gilmond knew exactly what Zeek Rewards was, but ultimately didn’t care.
The SEC go on to lay out a series of facts that identify Gilmond as an insider of the scheme, with perks well above and beyond what average Zeek investors had access to.
Gilmond developed close ties with Wright-Olivares and other ZeekRewards insiders, which gave her unique access and insight not available to a typical investor.
Among other things, Gilmond had the ability to adjust the number of “points” earned and could assign downline recruits to certain affiliates, both of which impacted the measure of profit sharing or commissions paid to those affiliates.
New investors typically signed up for ZeekRewards through Gilmond’s website; Gilmond also worked with Wright-Olivares to ensure that Gilmond received credit (and, ultimately, commissions) for affiliate investors that she recruited but who failed to identify Gilmond as their sponsor.
Gilmond often helped investors she recruited to sign up and arrange payments (using credit cards, online payment systems, or checks payable to Gilmond for the investors’ bid purchases); she also frequently helped them navigate problems with their personal electronic accounts to ensure daily dividends were credited to their accounts.
Gilmond was also instrumental in Zeek Rewards’ pseudo-compliance efforts to mask Ponzi fraud:
Gilmond helped conceal from investors and regulators the true nature of the ZeekRewards scheme.
To that end, Wright-Olivares and others directed, and Gilmond helped implement, several superficial or nominal changes to certain ZeekRewards features.
This included removing any references on the website to the terms “investment” and “ROI”; substituting a daily award percentage that in the aggregate approximated 125% every 90 days rather than “guaranteeing” a 125% return; and requiring investors to give away VIP bids to foster the illusion of contributing efforts to the enterprise.
Gilmond helped police affiliate advertisements and communications to ensure they did not describe ZeekRewards as a passive “investment” or refer to any “guarantees,” “ROI,” or similar investment-related terms.
Gilmond also reported to ZeekRewards insiders (typically Wright-Olivares) whenever affiliates improperly employed such taboo terminology.
Gilmond’s pivotal role within Zeek Rewards and close ties to Dawn Wright-Olivares, saw her rewarded with the signing of a “consulting agreement” in May, 2012.
How much this agreement was worth is not specified but, through her insider role in the scheme, Gilmond
received $461,964 in Matrix commissions based on investments made by her downline recruits. Gilmond also received an additional $1,300,074 in daily dividend payments and bonuses.
As Zeek Rewards edged closer to collapse in 2012, Gilmond’s insider knowledge saw her maximise profitability at the expense of others.
Aware that ZeekRewards was under investigation by several law enforcement agencies and that the business was in serious trouble in 2012, Gilmond and others withdrew substantial sums of money from the scheme before it was shut down, without advising investors that the scheme was likely to collapse.
For Gilmond’s part in the orchestration of one of the largest MLM Ponzi schemes to date, the SEC’s lawsuit lists three claims of relief against her;
- The unregistered offer and sale of securities in violation of the Securities Act
- Failure to register as a broker-dealer in violation of the Exchange Act and
- Fraud in the offer or sale of securities in violation of the Securities Act
The SEC argue that unless Gilmond is restrained and enjoined, she
will continue to violate, the registration, broker-dealer registration, and anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws.
Gilmond is (also) likely to engage in future violations of the federal securities laws.
To that end the SEC has asked the court to grant a permanent injunction against Gilmond, along with ‘disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and civil penalties‘.
This is on top of the $2.1 million dollar default judgement the Receiver has already been granted.
The SEC’s lawsuit against Gilmond is interesting as it marks the first civil lawsuit by the regulator against a non-executive Zeek Rewards insider.
Whether or not the Gilmond lawsuit is a one-off or if other Zeek insiders will be sued by the SEC remains to be seen.
Meanwhile with the lawsuit filed over three years after the SEC’s Zeek Rewards shutdown, you gotta wonder wonder what lawsuits we might see in other major MLM Ponzi busts yet.
Update 16th January 2016 – A reply from Trudy Gilmond was filed on the 15th of January.
In response to the complaint filed by the SEC against Trudy Gilmond… the defendant generally denies each and every paragraph of the complaint.
Gilmond appears to be representing herself in the case.
Update 29th June 2017 – On June 21st the SEC was granted Final Judgement against Trudy Gilmond.
The Final Judgement order will see Gilmond pay back $1,752,673.47 in disgorgement, $169.084 in prejudgment interest and a $150,000 civil penalty.