Prosper DJ and wife accused of scamming Black people nationwide out of ‘tens of millions’ in ‘blessing loom’ pyramid scheme

Disc jockey ASAP, a.k.a. Marlon Moore, welcomed members to a Zoom call by saying, “You received an invite here because someone loves you. Say thank you in the chat.”

The meeting was for Blessings In No Time, a Black-only community started last year by Marlon and his wife, LaShonda Moore, out of their home in Prosper. The Zoom greeting is documented on a members watchdog site.

Members were told that if they’d put in $1,400 (later upped to $1,425) and recruited two members, they would receive a “blessing” eight times their initial contribution — $11,200 (later upped to $11,400) — when they wanted to “bless out,” or leave. For new members, two recruits could be provided for them to ease the process. If they ever wanted out earlier, they could request a refund.

But the too-good-to-be-true plan fell apart in January after some BINT members said they not only didn’t get the $11,200 payout but also weren’t able to get a refund. The Texas attorney general’s office said it received nearly 200 consumer complaints about BINT, alleging over $700,000 in losses since the beginning of the year.

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced a lawsuit this week against BINT LLC, alleging that it was a pyramid scheme to scam “tens of millions of dollars from the African American community in Texas and nationwide.” On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission and Arkansas also sued BINT, filing a joint complaint alleging that some members paid as much as $62,700 to participate.

“This is despicable behavior, and BINT will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Paxton said in a statement.

Paxton noted it was “curious” that the $1,400 payment to join the program that started in June was in the range of stimulus checks sent to Americans in May by the federal government to help them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas wants BINT’s assets frozen and a temporary restraining order. Paxton’s lawsuit also seeks civil penalties in excess of $1 million, consumer redress, and attorney fees and costs. The state didn’t contact the Moores before going to court, fearing they would conceal assets and destroy records.

The Dallas Morning News was unable to contact the Moores through social media or multiple phone numbers available in public records. Former BINT members say the Moores went into hiding in January, taking down their website and halting communication with them.

The type of scam they are accused of is described by investigators as a gifting circle, a blessing loom or an illegal take on a sou-sou, or informal savings club. In Texas, those who operate pyramid schemes can face up to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Reports of multilevel marketing companies and pyramid schemes on social media increased fivefold in the second half of 2020 amid economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the FTC says.

“These scammers, who specifically targeted Black communities, used false promises of wealth to deceive consumers out of money at a time that Americans could least afford to lose it,” Daniel Kaufman, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

The Moores are considered D-list celebrities, members say. Marlon was the resident DJ on BET’s show 106 & Park for four years. LaShonda used to be a real estate agent. In 2020, both appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s reality show Family or Fiance, where newly engaged couples bring their disapproving families together to decide whether to get married. They also started a nonprofit called Mogul Behavior that claimed to be a lifestyle accelerator but is no longer in existence.

Last June, the Moores started BINT amid a pandemic that had left many Americans in dire financial situations.

Shawn Nichols paid into the group after his janitorial company in Arkansas suffered financially when businesses were shut down and couldn’t use his services. His uncle told him about BINT, and Nichols put in $4,200.

“I don’t have a lot of money and got nothing back,” he said.

BINT also came into existence amid a marked rise in racial tensions in the U.S. following the murder of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police. The Moores told BINT members it was their way of dealing with the pain. BINT published the “BINT Bible” that said: “All BINT members must be of African-American descent. Absolutely no exceptions!”

One of the victims mentioned in the lawsuit alleges that BINT used the “collective fear, grief and trauma that Americans were experiencing during and after the 2020 spring/summer riots to scam over 8,000 Black people out of over $40 million.”

The victim, who wasn’t identified in the lawsuit, brought six family members into BINT, resulting in a total loss of $32,000.

“Why would I believe they would give a refund?” the victim wrote. “I believed we’d get a refund due to the heavily documented refund guarantees from BINT founders & staff.”

The BINT community was built via weekly Zoom calls run by the Moores. Members said they were encouraged to invite family members and friends, which, after the fallout, led to family rifts.

“Get them pumped up. Get them excited. Don’t worry. When you get them there, we’re going to do the rest,” Marlon Moore said in a recorded Zoom call in which he also claimed that BINT had circulated over $33 million in the preceding four months.

DJ ASAP (“Always Serve A Purpose”), a.k.a. Marlon Moore, and his wife, LaShonda Moore, appear in one of their Zoom meetings with members.(Courtesy of BINTscam.com)

The Moores also brought up faith in their meetings. In one recorded Zoom video, a leader asks members to pray about whether to leave the group and ask for a refund.

“It’s scary now that I replay the meetings in my head on how they included God and claimed to be so righteous just to rob everyone blind,” said Destinee Habersham, who joined BINT in September.

The 14-page BINT Bible also had a unique rule: Anyone who posted about BINT on social media would automatically be terminated from the group and lose the ability to request a refund. By stifling members’ ability to speak out, the Moores and their team were able to continue the scam, the lawsuit says.

Members were organized into playing boards with 15 spots on each board, according to the FTC. Each board had four levels. The second level had four members who needed to bring in eight new members — two each — to fill out the first level. Once that first level was filled, the eight new members would pay the $1,400 to the one member at the top level. That equated to $1,400 times eight, or $11,200. Then the individual who was paid would be removed, the board would be split into two boards, and the remaining members would each move up a level.

The goal was to reach the top level, where an $11,200 payout awaited. However, earning potential was higher because each member could be on as many boards as they chose and on each board up to three times, members say.

At the end of last summer, the Moores started a mandatory $85 monthly payment for members to use a new app to streamline the boards, members say. The app was supposed to have educational materials about homeownership, credit and emotional well-being, but that never materialized, members say.

While thousands of members were asking for refunds toward the end of 2020, the Moores didn’t hide their opulent lifestyle, members say. The couple went skydiving in California for Marlon’s birthday in October and celebrated LaShonda’s birthday with a lavish party at The Joule Dallas Hotel.

Toward the end of 2020, members started questioning BINT, complaining that their boards were stagnant. Others began asking for refunds.

The Moores told members there was a line for refunds so it took them time to work through the requests. Donald Fleming, a Mississippi resident in the lawsuit, requested a refund in November and still hasn’t received one.

In a group message screenshot provided to The News and also to investigators, LaShonda told members that the boards weren’t moving because members were “lazy” and dependent on the BINT team to provide their recruits for the bottom level.

“Fun fact: BINT wasn’t an all-black group when we first started,” LaShonda wrote. “2 weeks in we made a decision to make it all black and got rid of everybody who wasn’t black. 3 weeks into being an all-black group WE STARTED HAVING PROBLEMS!!!! Let that marinate.”

A screenshot from the app shows that LaShonda had closed out 173 boards, which equates to at least $2 million in “blessings.” The Moores also had family members on boards, according to members and LaShonda’s statements on a recorded Zoom call.

Members and outsiders saw the Moores collecting payouts and envisioned themselves doing the same. And some members did receive payouts, which helped ease apprehension.

“When you see that 8,000 people are part of a community, you believe what they’re saying,” said LaWanda Williams, who hasn’t received any money back but knows some people in Tennessee who did.

In January, the Moores hosted a Zoom call on which they said that BINT was going through a reset and that members would be able to get partial refunds. After that presentation, members said they never saw or heard from the couple again. BINT also abandoned its website.

The Better Business Bureau, which assists with consumer complaints in North America, said on May 10 that it had reviewed a pattern of complaints about BINT and reached out to the company for information and documentation to verify proper registration to do business in Texas. As of June 9, BINT had not responded.

Jennifer Ferguson, 63, and her husband, Charles, 71, heard about BINT from people at their church in Tacoma, Wash. They put up their total savings of $34,200, hoping to use the investment to pay off their house and build a more robust nest egg.

They’ve had no money returned. Their credit scores have dropped from over 700 to the lower 600s as they struggle to make payments on bills they once were comfortable paying.

“We put everything into this and we ended up in way worse shape than we ever started,” Jennifer Ferguson said. “Peoples’ lives were LaShonda’s experiment. She used us for whatever she needed. And I trusted her.”

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