A New Hope company and its two owners have been charged with running an illegal sales scheme on Amazon that collected more than $15 million from consumers over the past year.
Jessie Conners Tieva and Matthew Tieva, and their company Sellers Playbook, were named in a recent complaint filed in federal court by the Federal Trade Commission and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.
The company and the Tievas have no affiliation with Amazon. Rather, they were promoting a business model for merchandising products on Amazon.com’s third-party sales platform. Sellers Playbook made “false and unsubstantiated” claims, including that its customers could make $20,000 a month and a potential net profit of $1.29 million by selling on Amazon, the charges say.
Few if any of Sellers Playbook’s customers achieved such results, and the defendants had “no adequate basis” for making such profit claims, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
Exposure Marketing, another company affiliated with the Tievas, also was named as a defendant. Jessie Tieva is the secretary and founder of Sellers Playbook and president of Exposure Marketing, while Matt Tieva is the CEO of Sellers Playbook and Exposure Marketing, court documents say.
The Tievas, who are husband and wife, could not be reached for comment Monday. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank signed a temporary-restraining order last week halting the Sellers Playbook operation.
Amazon, in a statement, said it has “zero tolerance for fraud and abuse and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement to pursue criminals.”
The defendants have been charged with nine counts in connection with the alleged misrepresentations, including violations of the federal Consumer Review Fairness Act and the Minnesota Prevention of Consumer Fraud Act.
The Tievas offered their Sellers Playbook system to consumers through a variety of marketing mechanisms, including e-mail, websites, webinars, online videos and social media such as Facebook and Instagram, the complaint said. Sellers Playbook also conducted seminars in cities throughout the country.
Customers would pay $497 for a basic Sellers Playbook system, which would include an “intensive learning experience about Amazon” through a three-day live workshop and access to the “Sellers Playbook Basic Membership Site,” the complaint said. During the three-day workshops, Sellers Playbook tried to upsell customers to more expensive systems costing $6,997 to $32,997.
The Tievas formed Sellers Playbook in early 2017. Before the company’s creation, Jessie Tieva, through Exposure Marketing, had participated in FBA Stores, a similar scheme that was shut down in March as the result of an FTC order, the complaint said.