Confesstimonial :: Collateral Damage



All you have to do to succeed :: is succeed at convincing others that they can succeed at succeeding … just by convincing others to succeed.

It’s that simple {of a mindfuck}.

Why aren’t you doing it?

Oh and also :: it will most likely tear your life apart … and ruin everything.

Confesstimonials™ are posts written by people {not pretending to be robots} who have firsthand experience with scamworld darkness :: and this one is about to begin …



My name isn’t Roger Willco; and this is the story of my involvement in multi-level marketing, its impact on my life, and that of my former partner.

Several years ago, a friend whom I’d known since college, asked me to meet her at a weekend regional training event put on by MLM #1.  The training was primarily motivational—the keynote speaker, an MLM #1 “Platinum Presidential”.  At that time, my friend held the independent distributor rank of “Regional Director” in MLM #1.  She’d enrolled four years earlier, believed she was doing well and anticipated achieving the rank of “Executive Director” in the near future.

Within a few months we formed a domestic partnership.  I was retired from my own career; so I turned my time and energy to doing what I could to help her be successful in her MLM #1 business.  She enrolled me as an independent distributor at a cost to herself of over $1,000.  She wanted me consuming the company’s products—a prospect at which I was decidedly unenthusiastic.  However, she believed my life and health depended on it and it helped her expand her downline; so I agreed to be enrolled.

That autumn, I helped her prepare business expense documentation for her income-tax return.  One of my assigned tasks was to tabulate her expenses for MLM #1 in the previous tax year.  Her expenditures for product alone exceeded $16,000.  I was present at her meeting with her tax accountant, where I learned that most of the products she bought had been for her personal use.

Shortly thereafter, I accompanied her to MLM #1’s annual national event.  At that gathering, I experienced a mind-control technique, known as “Large Group Awareness Training” (LGAT) — in my observation similar to “mob mentality”, only in a highly organized context.  There was a great deal of hyperbolic promotion of the company, the MLM business model, and the company’s products at this three-day event.

Traditional social sensibilities were treated as roadblocks to business success.  “J.O.B.s” were denigrated as “enslavement”; and recruits were explicitly discouraged from encounters with anyone who took issue with the way they conducted business.  They were taught that persons “guilty” of critical thinking were “losers, negative people and dream stealers” to be avoided.  True due diligence in the course of investigating the company, its products or the “business opportunity” was discouraged.  Curious distributors and prospects were instead directed to the company’s own “informational” website where they could find “studies” done by “independent researchers” who, to the critical investigator, were clearly shills for the company.  Distributors were thus immersed into a closed socially aberrant culture in which they were conditioned to only accept information supportive of their MLM involvement.

There were dozens of “breakout trainings” which were taught by top-level distributors; and my partner was compulsive about attending as many as possible during the two days they were offered.  Most of these trainings seemed to include at least implicit endorsement of deceiving prospective distributors and customers through obfuscation, avoidance, omission and just about any other means that didn’t involve outright lying.  Attendees were plied with portrayals of lavish lifestyles and promises of large passive income streams.  The clear implication was that these were attainable by any distributor who believed in their upline, the company and its products and followed top distributors’ “easily-duplicatable [sic] systems”.

Dozens of distributors lined up to tell their stories of experiencing or witnessing healing and relief of suffering which they attributed to use of MLM #1’s products—usually in remarkably large quantity.  I noticed that many of the diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, discussed by testifiers are historically characterized by a labile course, in which patients experience repeated spontaneous cycles of improvement and deterioration.  This characteristic renders sufferers susceptible to causal fallacies.

A “storefront” was open during breaks between sessions.  While a few of MLM #1’s products were displayed and offered for sale, the majority of shoppers seemed to spend most of their time looking at the plethora of “MLM #1-approved” sales aids (“tools”) and other promotional materials offered for sale by the company or its purportedly independent tools-marketing partner.  My partner usually spent in excess of $1,000 on tools and promotional materials at each of the eight national or international events we attended together.

MLM #1’s annual international event took place every spring.  It was identical in format and function to the autumn event.  Smaller groups of distributors in our state held regional 1½-day events patterned after MLM #1’s autumn and spring events—only on a smaller scale and without the breakout sessions.

Finally, individual distributors or local groups in our area conducted periodic “opportunity meetings”.  The purpose of these meetings was to present MLM #1’s “business opportunity” to prospects in a group setting.  In my observation, the usual practice included stocking attendance with existing distributors who would bring their own prospects as guests and supply contagious enthusiasm (peer pressure).  Opportunity meetings included some combination of training, promotional presentations and product sampling.  Time was always set aside for testimonials.

Typical opportunity meetings ended with a facilitator appealing to prospective distributors to write down the names of 15 friends or family members with whom they’d want to share this “fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime [business] opportunity”.  The prospective recipients of such “sharing” were billed as the new initiates’ “warm prospects”.  By this time in the encounter, through LGAT and hype, new enrollees were excited to follow through with this proposed sharing, in the belief they would be doing their warm prospects a favor.  That they were about to violate the social proscription against exploiting personal relationships for profit seemed to be lost on them.  I observed over time that this turned out to be the first step many new enrollees took onto a slippery slope of increasing social aberrancy.  It seemed that with few exceptions, friendships within the MLM culture were quickly formed and intense, but shallow, unreliable and remarkably phony.

One year into our partnership my partner bought some $20,000 worth of MLM #1’s stock.  Three years later the company’s stock began to drop after a nationally televised exposé on healing claims made for their products by one of their independent distributors.  Two months later, a state AG filed suit against MLM #1, alleging deceptive marketing practices and violations of the state’s food and drug act.  As the stock continued to lose value, I tried to convince my partner to divest herself of her MLM #1 holdings.  She remained steadfast in her inexplicable refusal to do so, saying that she would not betray the company by selling.  Two years later, she finally did sell her stock when its value had dropped to $3.00/share.

I helped my partner prepare her business tax records on my personal computer for another tax filing several years into our partnership.  Somehow, working with each category, one at a time, I had no sense of how much her business was costing her in total.  Years later, I ran across the spreadsheets for her expenses as I was deleting her files from my computer.  I was shocked to discover that, excluding what she wrote off for housing and utilities—expenses she’d have had with or without her business—they totaled more than $49,000.  I never tracked her business finances; but I can’t imagine she received more than $20,000 in commissions and bonuses that year.  Extrapolating that annual loss rate over the 8½ years of our partnership, her net losses may have totaled as much as $250,000 or more in that time.

After five years, my partner finally abandoned her involvement in MLM #1 to follow friends of hers who had been high-level MLM #1 distributors, to MLM #2.  By then, we could no longer afford for me to accompany her on her business-related travels.  So I didn’t witness what transpired at the regional and national events she attended.  I did however, attend local trainings in another community and opportunity meetings she hosted in her home.  These events followed essentially the same pattern as the MLM #1 events I’d attended, replete with training in deniable deception techniques and appeals to avarice.

After about a year with MLM #2, my partner’s upline left that company, initially complaining of wrongdoing on the company’s part.  However, they finally settled on  a different explanation…that, although they’d been doing well, their downline had not.  The inconsistency in their stories seemed to be completely lost on my partner; and she enthusiastically followed them into MLM #3.  Again … more of the same.

By then, our household financial losses had begun to mount to the point they were no longer sustainable.  Within several months of her move to MLM #3, I was overcome by my growing cognitive dissonance; and I withdrew from any significant supportive involvement with her upline, although I continued to assist her.

Finally, unable to gain her cooperation in formulating a household budget and rationalizing her business involvements, I reluctantly told her she would soon be faced with having to choose between me and her continued MLM involvement.  Without hesitation, she replied that given that choice, she’d stay with MLM.  Several months later, after she spent an afternoon exploring yet another MLM “business opportunity”, I left the partnership.


Time and distance from my life on the fringe of MLM has lifted the fog of confusion and depression that enveloped me for much of the time I lived in that sinister world.  Intensive self-directed study has led me to some solid and considered conclusions:

The MLM business model is reliant on convincing prospects of two foundational fictions:

  • There is an endless chain of prospective distributors.
  • There is a perpetually virgin market for the products being sold.

If prospective distributors aren’t at least implicitly convinced these two fictions are actually truths, an MLM cannot even launch, let alone survive.

  • The deceptive behaviors and cult-like mind-control practices of MLM are essential for its viability.
  • Most MLM recruits are drawn into MLM’s alternative reality for many reasons—most having nothing to do with personal character flaws or a lack of native intelligence.  Authoritative logicians say that the human mind is hardwired to accept the sort of logical fallacies cults (including MLM) use to influence their victims to act against their own self-interest.  Case in point:  My former partner was the valedictorian of her high school graduating class.  Yet she is a victim.
  • Only a very few MLM distributors eventually become knowing perpetrators of predatory fraud.  Their prey are new recruits, many of whom become unwitting predators as well.  Unaware participants lose their money—sometimes all of it, rack up debt—often insurmountable, sully or destroy some or all of their personal relationships and give up their personal credibility.  Most of what they sacrifice can never be recovered.
  • They are the victims of the most pervasive and costly ongoing business opportunity fraud in America—15.6 million victims losing in aggregate, $15 billion in 2012, according to forensic accountant and certified fraud investigator, Tracy Coenen.
  • When these unfortunate victims run out of money, credit and other external means of support, they tiptoe out of the industry—embarrassed and convinced they were the cause of their own failure.  They “didn’t work hard enough”, they “didn’t follow the system well enough” or they “didn’t believe enough”.  And because of their embarrassment, they seldom complain to regulators.
  • These are the 997 of every 1,000 MLM recruits who lose their investment and more—completely unaware they never really had a chance to be successful; and my former partner is just one of them.  They are unaware because MLM can’t reveal the truth to new recruits and remain viable.

Because this industry can’t survive without being deceptive, it is incapable of self-regulation; and government agencies charged with protecting consumers from fraud don’t step into the regulatory void.  So MLM scams roll on, crushing their millions of victims with impunity year after year and decade after decade.

Roger Willco


It’s not that we can’t do something about it … it’s just that we haven’t.

>> bleep bloop

28 thoughts on “Confesstimonial :: Collateral Damage”

  1. Fantastic post.

    It’s important to say that MLM is an international fraudulent plague. Empower Network defrauds people from all around the world and now seeks even greater global expansion. Vemma has already planted seeds in almost any other continent besides North America. Not to mention established MLM rackets like Herbalife and Amway.

    Criminals don’t differentiate between black or white … they only care about the green.

  2. Well done, Roger Willco.

    “Authoritative logicians say that the human mind is hardwired to accept the sort of logical fallacies cults (including MLM) use to influence their victims to act against their own self-interest.”

    We humans like and seek out strong and charismatic leaders who we can trust, especially at wobbly times in our lives. MLM rackets exploit the living tar out of this by indoctrinating recruits with false hope, a false sense of certainty of success, and a fake air of caring about recruits and customers alike. Once you’re sucked in, the events feel like parties, the hard-sell pressure feels like encouragement, and the narcissistic glad-handing feels like love. It takes a lot of native resilience and cynicism for a vulnerable person to challenge the BS; as with Roger Willco’s partner, resistance has nothing to do with smarts, resources, or overall health.

    Job > Scam. Preach it.

  3. Pingback: MLM vs. COLLEGE
    1. @RT, Read the article – thanks for posting. Utah is probably the worst state for fraud and MLM. However, my sister is making bank with MaryKay. I have no idea how she does it, but, she’s top in her field.

      1. @omiwatisaw,

        Go on — pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

        But seriously (not really much) Dave Ramsey says that if you want to succeed at an MLM, then you have got to understand that you’re in the recruiting business and you’re always hiring.

        So… do you suppose maybe that’s what she does?

  4. Lessons to be learned from this is one of cult mindset and how MLM “leaders” exploit it for all its worth.

    The victims are much like the folks in the Matrix: blissfully unaware they’re in a reality distortion field, and any sort of social norms are merely obstacles to be ignored. They were cult-indoctrinated into destabilize their existing social circles, and thus, allowed the scam world social system (uplines and peer sales groups) to dominate their world and alienate themselves from friends and family.

    It’s a sad story… and a warning to the cost of MLM. It’s not merely financial, but also the social costs, that is the most painful.

    1. And a bit of further musing on the social cost of MLM

      One would expect that repeating what was done before and hoping for a different result is merely gambling, and wishful thinking, yet that’s exactly what the cult encouraged as a part of their indoctrination and addiction. Your family and friends don’t understand. Leave them. We are your new family. You will succeed with us. We promise.

      Then once you’re in, and you realize you’re failing, you’re fed with excuses (it’s not our fault) and victim blaming (it must be YOUR fault!) Add a bit of confession (I did not sell to enough people, I failed the group) and you have a cult. You don’t even need a confession… You just need to do the opposite: recognize all the people who did meet the goal, and it’s clearly implied that everybody else failed.

      And that does NOT lead to a happy ending. In worst case scenario, it leads to depression and suicide.

      With specific links to this very post. :)

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Roger.

    Whenever anyone mentions MLMs to me in the future, I’ll point them here.

  6. Good article here Sir. The love of money is the root of all evil. A lesson to be learned.

    It’s sad that your partner had to go through all that. May God bless her dearly. And may you also be blessed.

  7. I almost don’t want to futz up the comment section with some ham handed comment from my ham handed self but I also wanted to say, I am so sorry, and thanks for presenting the story so clearly, Not Roger Willco. Stupid fu€king cults.

    1. @2+2=4,


      Kudos and thank you [not] Roger Wilco for being brave enough to step forward and tell an overly familiar yet under related personal story.

      It’s pretty sick and twisted that the onus of guilt and shame lives on with the victim of the fraud, instead of being interred with the perpetrator’s bones.

  8. this is the exact same bull crap I am dealing with. My “friend” has walled herself around fake friends who worship her facebook profile picture changes and her “commanding” positivism. Which is basically their regurgitated positive crap. “Crushing someone`s dream is heartless”… BLAH BLAH BLAH. Stupid psycho brainwashed bitch. I am so angry over it, Making me feel like I was the one in the wrong. Thank you Salty. I fucking feel vindicated.

    1. @Elaine B., You are far from alone and aren’t the one wrong, trust me. I’m in a similar situation.

      Longtime, very close friend was brainwashed by a MLM and was certain she was going to be a millionaire if she just worked hard and thought positive and was only around positive (meaning no criticism of her new cult) people. She went from the funnest person I knew to a fake positive, shallow, obnoxious, lying MLM bot. She told people she was making great money in her MLM when I know for a fact she was losing money–a lot–after her expenses. Finally when she tried to recruit a sweet blue collar woman from the church she joined to find more marks I said something. I showed her the income disclosure her MLM produced which showed 99% of their distributors lost money after expenses. I explained to her it wasn’t a matter of effort, no matter how hard she worked she would lose money in the MLM, and they were lying to and scamming her. My reality based argument wasn’t persuasive, which I didn’t really expected it to be as by then I had researched the extent of MLM brainwashing.

      Sadly, but predictably, she said I was toxic and negative and she was willing to work super super hard unlike that other 99% and she was going to get to the top and she wasn’t going to let dream stealers like me stop her! We haven’t spoken again since by her choice. She stayed in that MLM for another year, lost more money, then joined another one–same result, and is now on her third Statistically there’s no other way this story ends, no matter how many MLMs she joins. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve had some schadenfreude watching her fail.

      1. @DreamStealer,

        In the final reckoning, your schadenfreude sounds more like a Pyrrhic victory.

        Grow up!

          1. @DreamStealer,

            Well…. then you’re both double blaming the victim and ‘delighting’ in the progressive financial & emotional downfall, and ultimate & complete ruination of yet another exploited, brainwashed human being.

            And your joy at the expense of someone else’s devastation would set you very little apart from the evil, manipulative fraudsters you purport to know and hate.

            It’s unfortunate that you’ve somewhat missed the point of this site and Salty’s call to arms.

            1. @Dragon’s Done, I didn’t tell the whole story here, there’s a lot more to it. I agree the vast, vast majority of MLM distributors who get involved and lose money are indeed victims and I don’t blame them for their involvement–their only fault was believing what they were told, and considering how persuasive the pitch and lack of enforcement is, one can hardly blame them.

              My ex friend was not one of these. She knew what she was doing and had plenty of evidence to show why it was wrong. At some point people are personally responsible for their behavior. She lost money but she still has plenty, unlike the multiple people she lied to to recruit into her MLMs. All of whom could not afford to lose even a little of it while my ex friend pursued her MLM dreams because she wanted to go from rich to filthy rich.

              She was not a victim. She was a selfish, shallow user who showed she would take advantage of anyone if she thought she’d get richer from it. So yeah, I took some pleasure in the fact that a person like that didn’t get what would be ill gotten gains.

            2. @Dream Stealer

              Ok DS. Since you’ve filled in more pieces of the puzzle, now I got it.
              You’ll have to somewhat pardon the dragon who is under the weather and over the cranky limit. But I digress.
              You bring up a few interesting points, ones which I’ve certainly mulled over in my own head but have never seen discussed in a public forum of this nature.
              I agree with your statement that at some point people have to take responsibility for their own actions, as – yes, at some point they do indeed turn into conscious choices .. Or do they? I’m not very familiar or well versed in or with the various psychosocial manipulations employed in the use of brainwashing, cult tactics, mind control and general victimization. Nor am I familiar with their short and long term effects.
              But where is that hypothetical imaginary line drawn across the pyramid which clearly separates and delineates between the seasoned, higher up, manipulative exploiters who clearly already know better – and the lower, manipulated, neophyte exploitees who supposedly should but don’t?
              And at what point can you say that regardless of initial or ongoing psychological machinations and emotional duress, the victim, nonetheless, needs to be held culpable for his/her continued and ongoing perpetration and perpetuation of the very same atrocities that were originally committed onto him/her?
              Such as in the case of a pedophile or child abuser who was formerly molested and abused him/herself as a child and continues to recreate those very same dynamics and victimizes others as an adult. And granted while that example was off topic it begs thinking about the psychological and moral deconditioning of human beings as a whole. Under the Nazi regime, Germans were desensitized and reprogrammed to view Jews, homosexuals, gypsies (just to name a few loathed groups) as rats and other such forms of contemptible ‘non human vermin’. Making their imminent extermination psychologically, socially and morally acceptable as well as financially solvent. Under the ‘MLM’ regime recruits are taught or reprogrammed to view family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, casual acquaintances, et al as potential recruitees, down lines and dollar figures. Perhaps also desensitizing them to the fact that they are exploiting and profiting off of the devastation of ‘actual human beings’.
              It’s a frightening parallel, wouldn’t you agree? For if a new army of MLM bots are being created who are driven by their own financial rapaciousness and possess no moral compass to guide them or efficacious, enforcible laws to thwart them…
              given the right type of desperate, despondent, disgruntled OWS type socio-economic atmosphere, Trump or Michael Johnson or Gd knows who worse, can become the next rabble rousing financial saviour (aka MLM Hitler).
              The SS soldiers used the excuse that they were just following orders. Perhaps your rich ex-friend was just following hor d’oeouvres .
              In any case, just some thoughts regarding the socially, psychologically, economically and legally acceptable representation of the ever increasingly pervasive MLM and its permissible practices and accompanying mind set –
              whose both current and potential Global implications,
              reach far beyond the individual template constructed MLM scam – or scammer.

  9. Tony Rush is a scammer? Can it be?

    I had to laugh when your Wussy video introduces “The Man…The Money Machine”, Tony Rush, at the very end. Salty, you could spend a month of Sundays just writing about this scammer. I’ve rarely seen someone so filthy and so happy to take the last dime people have and then blame them for failing.

    From just one site I was able to find about Tony Rush and his scams:

    Never worked with Tony. Not in MLM. But I’ve run across this guy for over a decade as he pulls his “poor southern boy working part time in a Barnes and Noble” routine. I’ve seen videos of him extolling his wealth and millionaire lifestyle, then saying on video that he and his wife were close to bankruptcy before he found Empower Network which, of course, he NEVER joined to make money but, rather, to use the tools to help his meager little home business.

    Most of the little people getting scammed by him don’t know the tricks of the trade. They have tried to do their due diligence and, when they don’t find anything, start handing over thousands of dollars to him. Truth is, he and his Empower buddies know how to game the search engines so if you type in “TONY RUSH SCAM”, all you get for pages and pages are articles Tony has written – and his buddies have syndicated – about his thoughts on scams.

    If you ever want to help the hundreds – if not thousands – of people who have been hurt by this guy, I’m thinking a some Salty link love might be a little harder to hide from the masses.

    In any event, thanks for all you do.

    1. @Empowered to Take Your Money, I don’t know Tony Rush from Adam, but his name popped up on a Facebook exchange that Ron and I participated in yesterday, and from which we were summarily banned for being negative hater goons. Tony Rush has apparently captured the heart of another poor Southern boy, name of Tyler, who has been spamming his Facebook “friends” with Empower-related schemes for well over a year. Tyler is an ex member of Trudeau’s Global Information Network, and some time in the spring of 2012 he jumped right out of the GIN frying pan and into the Empower fire. He just alerted Tony yesterday on the aforementioned Facebook thread (a thread which he started and has since deleted) that Tony and Dave Wood and other luminaries need to be aware of Glancingweb, “the hornets nest motherload of negative scum spewing BS public defamation of character.” So Omri, you have been warned! :-)

  10. Ok here is the $1,000,000 question. What else do you MLM experts have to offer? MLM is about marketing and compensation. It’s not about a product or service. Find a company which offers a product or service that pays enough to make a living just from personal production if need be and then the issue it’s an industry but the person or the market place.

    Just like there are bad jobs/careers, there are bad companies in the man industry. Think about it. People spend four plus years in college to come out in debt with maybe a degree that may not be marketable with loans. Blame the individual..

    1. Always good to have a comment on a “way back when” article on SD that is still pertinent, and right on point. Brings one back to read the article again – so thank you “In MLM” for that. You might want to re-read the article as well – as from your comment, not sure you have quite got the point yet. Also – always good to proof read your comment before posting – for example you meant to say “there are bad companies in the MLM industry”…instead of “bad companies in the man industry”. Well… almost right. All companies in the MLM industry are bad. Every single last one of them. Not a single one is good. Nada. Zipitity Zero. Zilch. Comprende?

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