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Missouri Judge Declares "Original Dinner Party" a Pyramid Scheme

December 18, 2000

A Clay County, MO, judge has granted state Attorney General Jay Nixon a summary judgement, determining that the "Original Dinner Party" is an illegal pyramid scheme. The scheme, referred to as a "gifting tree" or "gifting network" by perpetrators, is also known as the "Women's Empowerment Network" (WEN). Judge David W. Russell has scheduled a December 27 hearing to determine penalties and restitution. Staci Lynn Baska, Gayla Hiatt, Bonnie Larimore, Susie Smith and Annette Willett also violated Missouri law by participating in the illegal scheme.

The Attorney General has two other lawsuits pending in Clay Co. against five other scheme participants, as well as a suit in St. Louis Co.

Complaints about this scheme have been reported in various locations throughout Missouri.

The Dinner Party scheme is very similar to the "Airplane Game," which has made the rounds several times since the early 1980s. Participants "donate" an amount of money, $5,000 in this case, to "enter" at the "salad level." Then they must recruit others, who enter at the "salad level" and push their "sponsor" up a level. When the person reaches the "dessert level," he pockets the cash that's been "contributed" to the game. The scheme is also commonly known as the "Women's Empowerment Network (WEN)," "Dinner Party," "Dinner Club," or "Breakfast Club." Early entrants will usually make money, but many will have lost their "investment" when the authorities inevitably shut it down and the pyramid collapses.

To confer an air of legitimacy, scheme perpetrators will often claim that the "club" has been "approved" by the Federal Trade Commission, or the state's Attorney General. These claims are always false, as neither the FTC nor any state government will "endorse" a particular money-making scheme.

This page last updated on 10/11/2004