PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – An Arizona man sold big promises of big profits to dozens of people across the country, but the paydays never happened. Now Robert Contreras and his companies are on the hook for $1.4 million in restitution and fines, 3 On Your Side has learned.
Richard Worden, a missionary who lives in Long Beach, California, is one of the victims. He needed money for a project in Africa. When he was told he could make money by selling items online, he agreed to front cash for a new business venture. Clothing and shoes. You could pick whatever you want, I was told,” Worden recalled. “I had no idea what it cost to build a website and get the products and everything else on there, so every time I turned around, they needed another $10,000.”
There was technically a website, but it was not the money-maker Worden was promised. “I almost threw up when I saw it,” he said. “At that point, I had used all of our retirement money.” Worden’s loss totaled about $45,000. He filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. He wasn’t the only one. “There were victims all over the country,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich told 3 On Your Side.
Basically, it was all junk. It was a scam.”
According to a civil lawsuit against Robert Contreras and his companies — Publishertech LLC, Publisher Wealth Corporation, and Upstarter, LLC — consumers were solicited over the phone. The caller was “offering to sell a business opportunity claiming that consumers could earn a substantial income by selling merchandise online.”
“Basically, it was all junk,” Brnovich said. “It was a scam.” And it was costly. According to the complaint, more than 80 victims lost a total of about $500,000. “If someone contacts you, if they initiate the contact, that’s something you should be wary of,” Brnovich cautioned. “If someone doesn’t want you talking about it with your friends and family, that’s something you should be wary of. And always, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.”
The defendants agreed to a settlement and owe $1.4 million — $500,000 and another $900,000 in fines. “In addition, Contreras is banned from ever again selling business opportunities and internet marketing services in Arizona,” the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said. It means financial relief and peace of mind for Worden. “I was thrilled to death to find out we could keep people from experiencing what I experienced,” Worden said.
3 On Your Side reached out to the attorney representing Contreras and his companies for comment on the case but have not heard back.
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