FTC v Automators AI: A Guide for All Biz Op & Coaching Merchants
courthouse, monochromatic, rendered cg

FTC v Automators AI: A Guide for Business Opportunity Merchants and Coaches


In this new era where artificial intelligence (AI) has become the golden ticket in e-commerce, a recent ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sends a powerful message across the bow of all business opportunity merchants and coaches: integrity is non-negotiable.

The case in point? The owners of Automators AI, a once-promising AI-driven e-commerce scheme that promised the moon but left its investors adrift in space. This case not only underscores the risks of deceptive business practices but also serves as a critical learning opportunity for those navigating the tempting waters of online business opportunities.

three businessmen on a pile of cash

Raking in (other people’s) money

The Case of Automators AI: A Cautionary Tale

Spearheaded by Roman Cresto, John Cresto, and Andrew Chapman, Automators AI (also known as Empire Ecommerce or Onyx Distribution) presented itself as the golden key to unlocking untold riches through AI-powered online stores. Yet, beneath the glossy exterior lay a web of deception that would ensnare hundreds of unwary investors—a scam.

The trio’s scheme was ingeniously malevolent: promise passive income from AI-optimized profitable e-stores, lure investors with tales of high returns, and then watch as those dreams evaporated into the ether.

These storefronts, purported to be powered by cutting-edge AI, were nothing more than a façade for an operation built on lies. The claim? That anyone could rake in profits on platforms like Amazon and Walmart without lifting a finger, thanks to their AI and machine learning magic.

Investors were told of a future where their financial worries were a thing of the past, seduced by the allure of easy money. The reality, however, was grim. The promised AI was either non-existent or grossly ineffective.

Many clients saw little to no return on their hefty investments, with some losing their entire stake as their ecommerce stores were suspended or terminated by hosting platforms (Amazon.com and Walmart.com) for failing to meet basic operational standards. Even as consumer complaints amassed, refunds were never granted.

The trio also lied about receiving venture capital endorsements and funds, bringing harm to consumers through a false idea of security.

The fallout from this money-making scheme was catastrophic. Not only did it lead to financial ruin for many, but it also eroded trust in the burgeoning field of AI in e-commerce.

The FTC’s intervention was a necessary blow for consumer protection and restore some semblance of integrity to the online marketplace. The settlement laid down by the courts was a damning indictment of the trio’s actions: a ban from selling business opportunities or coaching programs, a prohibition against making deceptive earnings claims, and a hefty restitution bill to the tune of over $21 million.

"ethics" written on a big screen in a lecture hall filled with businesspeople

A lecture on ethics.

Lessons to Learn: Integrity in Business Practices

The case of Automators AI is a rich source of invaluable lessons for business opportunity merchants and coaches. At the heart of these lessons is the unwavering importance of integrity in business practices.

Upholding Transparency

Transparency isn’t just about avoiding deception; it’s about building a foundation of trust with your clients. Be upfront about the potential and limitations of your offerings. Ensure that your marketing materials, sales pitches, and client interactions reflect the reality of what you’re offering.

Avoid using technical jargon or overcomplicated explanations that might obscure the true nature of your business opportunities. Simplicity and clarity in communication foster an environment where trust can thrive.

Delivering Real Value

The goal of any reputable business should extend beyond merely making a sale. Focus on delivering genuine value that helps your clients achieve their goals. This means offering products or services that are not only profitable but also sustainable and beneficial in the long term.

Stay committed to improving your offerings. The world of e-commerce and AI is ever-evolving; staying informed and adapting to new technologies and methodologies can help ensure that the value you provide remains relevant and impactful.

Ethical Marketing

Make a conscious effort to ensure that your advertising materials accurately represent what you’re selling. Avoid making unsubstantiated claims about earnings or success rates. Remember, ethical marketing is a legal requirement.

Setting realistic expectations is crucial. While it’s tempting to promise the world to close a sale, doing so can lead to disillusionment and damage your reputation in the long run. Honest discussions about potential challenges and realistic outcomes build credibility and trust.

Legal Compliance and Best Practices

Familiarize yourself with the legal requirements and regulations governing your industry. This includes the FTC Act, the Business Opportunity Rule, and the Consumer Review Fairness Act, among others. Legal compliance is not only about avoiding penalties but also about demonstrating your commitment to fair and ethical business practices.

Look to industry best practices as a guide for your operations. Engage with professional associations, attend workshops, and consult with legal experts to ensure that your business aligns with the highest standards of ethical conduct.

Compliance is a click away with the help of DirectPayNet

line graph increasing, businessman pointing up

The only way to go is up!

Building Sustainable Success: Beyond the Hype

In the aftermath of the Automators AI debacle, a pivotal question looms large: How can business opportunity merchants and coaches cultivate sustainable success?

The journey toward enduring prosperity in the e-commerce and business coaching realms requires a steadfast commitment to principles that foster long-term growth and resilience. Let’s explore the pillars of building a business that not only survives the test of time but also thrives in the face of challenges.

Anchoring in Authentic Value

Your business should be anchored in a core value proposition that addresses a genuine need or problem in the market. This means moving beyond superficial promises to offer solutions that deliver tangible benefits to your customers.

The landscape of e-commerce and business opportunities is constantly evolving. Staying ahead requires an unwavering commitment to innovation and the flexibility to adapt to new trends, technologies, and customer behaviors.

Cultivating Customer Relationships

Trust is the currency of sustainable success. Cultivate it by consistently delivering on your promises, providing excellent customer service, and engaging with your audience in a transparent and authentic manner.

Sustainable success is built on long-term customer relationships. This involves understanding your customers’ evolving needs and preferences and finding ways to engage them meaningfully over time.

Ethical Growth Strategies

Growth should be pursued responsibly and ethically, with a focus on maintaining the quality of your offerings and the integrity of your operations. This means avoiding shortcuts that compromise your values or the welfare of your customers.

Building a supportive community around your brand and collaborating with others in your industry can amplify your impact and contribute to a healthier ecosystem. This includes sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices to foster mutual growth.

Embracing Transparency and Accountability

Be open about your business practices, successes, and failures. This level of transparency not only builds trust but also humanizes your brand, making it more relatable and trustworthy to your audience.

Hold yourself and your team accountable for your actions and decisions. When mistakes happen, acknowledge them, learn from them, and take steps to prevent them in the future. This approach not only mitigates damage but also demonstrates your commitment to continuous improvement.

Building sustainable success requires more than just capitalizing on the latest trends or technologies; it demands a foundational commitment to ethical practices, genuine value creation, and the cultivation of deep, trust-based customer relationships.

As we reflect on the lessons learned from the fall of Automators AI, let us strive to build businesses that not only seek profit but also embody the principles of integrity, responsibility, and genuine engagement. In doing so, we lay the groundwork for a future where success is not just measured by immediate gains but by the lasting impact and value we bring to our customers and the broader community.


About the author

As President of DirectPayNet, I make it my mission to help merchants find the best payment solutions for their online business, especially if they are categorized as high-risk merchants. I help setup localized payments modes and have tons of other tricks to increase sales! Prior to starting DirectPayNet, I was a Director at MANSEF Inc. (now known as MindGeek), where I led a team dedicated to managing merchant accounts for hundreds of product lines as well as customer service and secondary revenue sources. I am an avid traveler, conference speaker and love to attend any event that allows me to learn about technology. I am fascinated by anything related to digital currency especially Bitcoin and the Blockchain.