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Beline Obeid

November 14, 2013
THE GROSSE POINTES — Scammers are scouring the community for well-heeled women with more dollars than sense.

Hustlers hope to dupe victims out of thousands of dollars in get-rich schemes under the guise of empowering abused women or those suffering serious illness.

"They gain their trust by inviting them to 'gifting' parties," said Dan Jensen, Grosse Pointe Farms public safety director. "Usually, they sell pottery or jewelry on the side. After that, they get into discussions about joining the group."

Memberships cost up to $5,000. Recruits are told they can make $40,000 by sponsoring additional members.

"It's a pyramid scheme to ask someone for money on the pretext they'll earn more money back if they bring in other members," Jensen said.

He's aware of three recruitment parties within the last two weeks at houses in the Farms, Shores and Woods.

"Several women called me about their concerns," he said.

Jensen showed up unannounced at a party Monday, Nov. 4, in the Farms.

"I told them I lost my invitation," he said.

He identified himself and his purpose.

"Within 60 seconds, the two organizers were at the door wanting to know what I was doing there," Jensen said. "They said what they were doing was legal."

Legal, maybe. Hard to prosecute, definitely.

"You either have to have someone on the inside, which is difficult to do because it's invite-only and they check you out pretty well, or you need to have someone who was scorned and will work with you," Jensen said.

A two-year investigation by state police in western Michigan resulted in the 2010 arrest of women operating pyramid schemes under such banners as Circle of Friends, Women Helping Women, the Gifting Club and Heart to Heart.

Gifting schemes in the Pointes seem to be entering a bear market.

"They dropped the entry fee to $350," Jensen said. "Be warned, if they ask you to bring in a couple of new members and when they give money, your money doubles, that's not charity. That's bs."

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