Laura Dunnagan – Over the past month, Davidson students have reported being encouraged to join an alleged pyramid scheme by two Charlotte- area entrepreneurs. The business model requires students to purchase domains in exchange for online access to items that they will then sell to family and friends, earning about two thousand dollars per week for ten hours of work.
“I was approached with a job opportunity, people saying they were looking for college students who wanted to get into digital marketing,” said Nick Fantuzzi ‘18. The following week, he had a meeting with Sheri Wang, one of the business’s directors, along with two Davidson students recruiting on her behalf. Olivia Daniels ‘19 also attended as a prospective employee, as she had been contacted about the opportunity. The meeting took place in the Math and Science Center in the E.H. Little Library.
“Sheri pulled out a chart about what vendors make from manufacturing to retail. She argued that vendors make less selling through retail stores because they have to go through all these hoops to get to retail. We would be giving them the option to sell directly from the manufacturer to the consumer, so they would make more money,” said Fantuzzi. Though this can be a valid business model, Wang’s inability to provide sufficient information about her business led Fantuzzi to be skeptical about the validity of the opportunity.
“Before I left, I asked what the name of the company was…and she couldn’t give us a name,” commented Fantuzzi. “There’s no name for the whole [scheme], but she said her LLC was called “Without Limits,” apparently registered in the state of North Carolina.” According to the North Carolina Secretary of State Corporations Division, Without Limits LLC is not registered to Steve or Sheri Wang within the state of North Carolina (1).
Daniels, who was also recruited to join the business venture, reports feeling uncomfortable with Wang’s proposal. Daniels says Wang did not allow the student recruiters already working for her to answer questions during the preliminary informational meeting. Additionally, Wang encouraged Daniels and Fantuzzi to join her at the Stage II recruitment meeting to be held the following week at Elevation Church, which the group had rented out, though she did not provide information about the schedule of that meeting. “She seemed to play on our vulnerabilities as students,” says Daniels. “They shouldn’t be targeting students with those kind of [monetary] incentives because that’s not fair.”
After the preliminary meeting, Daniels contacted Associate Dean of Students Ernest Jeffries and campus police to alert them to the on-campus solicitation.
“There are rules about solicitation,” says campus police Chief Sigler. “People can’t come and help themselves to trying to contact students, faculty, staff–anybody. But, if a student invites somebody to meet with them, they are certainly allowed to do that–this is where students live.” According to these guidelines, Steve and Sheri Wang are not violating Davidson College policy, as recruitment occurs at the invitation of the students presently working for them.
“We haven’t seen anything that would indicate any kind of criminal act,” commented Sigler. “We tell people in situations like this that they need to be vigilant about the motives. Read the fine print, and be careful before you commit any resources to any kind of an offer.”
Sigler said that this case is a consumer awareness concern, like IRS or phishing scams occasionally targeted at Davidson students, but no evidence exists that this is a criminal matter. “We’ve talked to the vendor, and the vendor understood the protocol and made no indication that they were going to try to avoid those rules and policies,” says Chief Sigler. “Not all of the students [contacted by the Wangs] feel as though they have been misled, and there are certainly business models that do this and are legitimate.”
Steve Wang reportedly works for a subsidiary of Wells Fargo, and Sheri Wang works at Amway. Amway has had previous lawsuits regarding pyramid scheme accusations. Davidsonian staff contacted two students known to have recruited for the Wangs, yet both declined interviews. On multiple occasions, staff also contacted Sheri Wang, but Wang did not reply.
Campus police urges other students who have been contacted about this kind of opportunity and are suspicious to report to its office.
Citations: (1) https://www.sosnc.gov/search/index/corp