Paul Orberson, the founder of infamous multi-level marketing company Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing (FHTM), has died at age 57. According to a report from the Lexington Herald-Leader, Orberson died of kidney cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2003. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Born in 1956, Orberson grew up in Danville, KY and later attended Western Kentucky University on a basketball scholarship. Following college, Orberson began working as a teacher and basketball coach at a Casey County High School, Kentucky School for the Deaf, and Boyle County High School. During that time, Orberson began working with multi-level marketing company Excel Communications, eventually making millions by recruiting new salespeople to work underneath him.
After retiring briefly in 1996, Orberson moved to Lexington, KY and founded FHTM. The business quickly grew and soon became one of the most recognizable multi-level marketing schemes throughout North America.
For a time the company was able to dodge charges of being a pyramid scheme by paying fines in states such as Texas and Montana. In January 2013, however, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the states of Kentucky, Illinois, and North Carolina cracked down on FHTM, with Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway calling it a “classic pyramid scheme.”
The company’s headquarters and warehouse were raided and shut down, and charges were filed against Orberson and other top FHTM executives. The charges included operating an illegal pyramid scheme, making false earnings claims, and providing customers with “false and misleading materials for recruiting more participants.” FHTM is also in the midst of a class-action lawsuit, and is currently negotiating a settlement agreement in that case.
(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mreno11)