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Consumer warning about Pinnacle Quest Int

Consumer warning about Pinnacle Quest International

Consumers’ Institute is warning people away from a US-based pyramid scheme called Pinnacle Quest International (PQI).

Consumer says PQI “sales consultants” are currently touring New Zealand, holding meetings and selling “investment” CDs and seminars.

“The claims and promises made by this company are absurd and in some cases likely to be illegal,” said Consumer’s acting chief executive, Simon Wilson.

“If people sign up for the whole deal, they are going to find themselves over $40,000 out of pocket.

“We’ve been advised of a meeting in Napier in which a PQI consultant announced that ‘most people’ who sign up with PQI become millionaires within five years, some even three.

“We have also been assured by a PQI consultant that the information dispensed by PQI is ‘usually only available to the mega-rich’. The same consultant told us the average return from investing in ‘secret companies’ was ‘around 100 percent per annum’.”

Mr Wilson described these claims as the “typical nonsense” of a pyramid investment scam.

How it works

PQI’s American website sets out how the company works. Consultants hold meetings at which attendees are encouraged to pursue a three-stage “educational process”. First, they buy a set of instructional CDs (cost US$1280). Second, they attend a seminar – there’s one in Mexico in June (cost US$6280). Finally, they attend a seminar on a cruise ship (cost US$15,000). These amounts do not cover accommodation, airfares, food or expenses, but only purchase of the CDs or entry to the seminars.

Consumer says local PQI consultants have confirmed the same system operates here. “One of their consultants told a Consumer staffer that a very high percentage of the money paid by consumers goes in commission to the sales consultant,” said Mr Wilson. “He said US$1000 of the CD package, US$5000 of the Mexican seminar and US$10,000 of the cruise ship seminar is commission.” Mr Wilson said PQI also sells information on how to avoid paying taxes, through establishing offshore companies in “tax havens”.

“The material relates primarily to US federal taxes. It will be of little use to New Zealand citizens, and may breach American tax laws if used there.”

Mr Wilson says PQI may indeed make some people rich. “Like all pyramid schemes, it’s a scam designed to make its inventors rich at the expense of everyone else who buys into it,” he said.

“We doubt the value of the advice on investments and taxes. But we are in no doubt that if you pay the thousands this outfit is asking, you will be very lucky to see any of it again.”

PQI has already been in trouble in US courts. Court proceedings filed last December in Oklahoma by a former PQI consultant, David Wayne Starky, described it as “perhaps the largest and most notorious tax fraud scheme in history”.

In another case dating back to August 1998, the Massachusetts equivalent to our Securities Commission declared Global Prosperity Group (which was closed down in May last year and “re-opened” the next day as PQI) to be “an illegal pyramid scheme”. It was ordered permanently to cease trading in that state.

Upcoming meetings Auckland: 5-9 May Hamilton: 12-16 May

These dates are flexible, and consultants are able to conduct meetings at short notice anywhere in New Zealand.

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