Defendants make millions in multi-level pyramid schemes.
Two defendants, Joseph Johnson Jr. and Candice Cunningham, are facing charges in Wisconsin for operating numerous pyramid schemes that illegally raised millions of dollars. The indictment was unsealed on March 23, 2023, and includes 8 separate counts for both defendants. Johnson and Cunningham both face a single count of mail fraud conspiracy and seven counts of mail fraud a piece. Each of these charges carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The two Chicago residents were indicted by the Wisconsin federal grand jury as their pyramid scheme affected victims in at least four separate states. They ran a series of separate schemes through at least 8 different fraudulent companies. Some of those companies include:
– Wealth Partners Publishing (WPP)
– DTR Group
– 30-Day Success Formula
One of these businesses has already faced multiple civil lawsuits. In 2016, WPP and Candice Cunningham lost a lawsuit filed by Timothy Ferris and Krisa Performance LLC. over claims that included trademark infringement and “false designation of origin.”
WPP faced another lawsuit in 2017 filed by Chicago attorney general Lisa Madigan. In the lawsuit, Madigan claimed she received more than 20 individual complaints regarding Wealth Partners Publishing, which was clearly operating a pyramid scheme called “Partners in Profit.” Madigan also filed a restraining order against Candice V. Cunningham and an order to preserve assets.
Johnson and Cunnigham utilized a variety of strategies to funnel money away from victims and participants into their schemes. The two frequently ensured participants that they would make massive profits through their programs by recruiting new participants/victims. As with all pyramid schemes, relying on recruitment as the primary source of income is not a sustainable business model. Furthermore, participants often never received any payments for the additional participants they recruited.
Johnson and Cunningham also claimed that any participant who did not earn back their initial investment would receive a full refund. Many people unsuccessfully filed for refunds after not receiving any payments. The two defendants were able to earn millions of dollars in this manner without ever returning any of the revenue to the recruiters near the bottom of the pyramid. However, it’s alleged that some participants in the higher tiers of the scheme also profited heavily from these lies.
Cunningham conducted an online interview in 2019 where she shares her supposed ideals and motivations. Her seemingly positive and uplifting comments provide a stark contrast to the reality of the alleged scams that stretched the span of at least 5 years.
Ironically, she enthusiastically promotes “self-help millionaires” Grant Cardone and Timothy Ferriss during the interview. Grant Cardone, interestingly enough, is currently facing a class action lawsuit for his allegedly fraudulent series of books after having the charges temporarily dismissed last year. Timothy Ferris successfully sued Cunningham and Wealth Partners Publishing in 2016.
During this interview, Cunningham also discusses a non-profit organization she operates that claims to uplift primarily black and impoverished neighborhoods through “entrepreneurial training.” Whether this organization relates in any way to her other pyramid schemes is not yet known. It’s well known that pyramid schemes cause significantly more damage in low-income neighborhoods and these schemes likely harm the same individuals her non-profit claims to protect.
The charges against Cunningham and Johnson are still under investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. No additional information regarding Johnson or other participants is available at this time. Both defendants are facing allegations and whether they will be convicted of crimes is yet to be determined.