SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- It was called Women Helping Women. But investigators say it operated more like Women Helping Themselves to Other Women's Money.
The network was allegedly a $12 million pyramid scheme in which women were invited to parties in beauty salons and suburban homes and promised the opportunity to help their community and make big money for themselves.
The Women Helping Women parties featured a lucky "birthday girl," who would receive up to $40,000 in cash from the new participants, each of whom donated up to $5,000 to get in and eventually celebrate her own "birthday." But for many women, the birthday party never came.
Four Sacramento-area women were arrested Oct. 3 on fraud and pyramid-scheme charges, and four more women were charged this week. The investigation also revealed that a candidate for district attorney in a neighboring county told partygoers the events were legal and then asked them for campaign contributions.
The parties, authorities said, were part of a pattern of pyramid schemes found in nearly every state.
Recently, 30 people were indicted in New Mexico for allegedly running similar scams.
"It's a cottage industry here," said Sam Thompson, spokeswoman for the New Mexico attorney general's office. "People get a hold of the paperwork, sometimes it's 'The Spirit of Giving' or 'Women Helping Women' or 'The Dinner Party,' and they just copy part of it and start their own pyramid."
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