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October 10, 2012

CT reaches $203K ‘gifting tables’ settlement

Connecticut will collect $202,500 from five shoreline women who participated in an alleged “gifting tables’’ pyramid scheme under a settlement with the state, authorities say.

Meantime, a change of plea hearing for one of the women charged with participating in the pyramid scheme was canceled, The Associated Press reports.

Each of the five women agreed to disgorge sums ranging from $20,000 to $65,000, state General George Jepsen and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein announced Wednesday. Both agencies continue to probe the scheme, officials said.

“Consumers should be aware,’’ Jepsen said in a statement, “that state and federal law prohibits these kinds of schemes, and any offer involving upfront money payments with promises of big profits that depend on recruiting others should be considered suspect.”

The individuals who settled are:

• Patricia MacKenzie of Essex, who will forfeit $45,000.

• Elizabeth Culligan of East Haven, who will forfeit $40,000.

• Terrell Naumann of Branford, who will forfeit $20,000.

• Sally Stedman of Guilford, who will forfeit $65,000.

• Felicia Zaffin of Branford, who will forfeit $32,500.

The individuals have also agreed that they will not participate in any gifting tables or other pyramid schemes, and that they will cooperate with the state’s investigation.

The forfeited funds will be deposited into the state’s General Fund, officials said.

According to The AP, Bettejane Hopkins of Essex had been scheduled to appear Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Hartford, but court records indicate the hearing was canceled. A message left Wednesday with her attorney was not immediately returned.

No new date has been scheduled, The AP reported.

Hopkins and two other women pleaded not guilty in May to charges including wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

To join a gifting table, authorities say new participants must pay a $5,000 gift to the person occupying the ‘‘dessert’’ position at the top of the pyramid. Participants move through the pyramid from the bottom row, called ‘‘appetizers,’’ to the top by recruiting additional women to join.

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