Arganese Pyramid Scheme
Before I share the interesting information about Mr. Gene Arganese and his cigar company, Arganese Cigars, let’s make sure everyone knows what a Pyramid Scheme is.
Here is some quick copy and pasting from my favorite source Wikipedia: “A successful pyramid scheme combines a fake yet seemingly credible business with a simple-to-understand yet sophisticated-sounding money-making formula which is used for profit. The essential idea is that the mark, Mr. X, makes only one payment. To start earning, Mr. X has to recruit others like him who will also make one payment each. Mr. X gets paid out of receipts from those new recruits. They then go on to recruit others. As each new recruit makes a payment, Mr. X gets a cut. He is thus promised exponential benefits as the “business” expands.
Such “businesses” seldom involve sales of real products or services to which a monetary value might be easily attached. However, sometimes the “payment” itself may be a non-cash valuable. To enhance credibility, most such scams are well equipped with fake referrals, testimonials, and information. The flaw is that there is no end benefit. The money simply travels up the chain.”
Pyramid Scheme in the Cigar Industry
Gene Arganese has taken it upon himself to launch a program called Connoisseur Enterprise Organization or C.E.O for short. The objective of this organization is to “To offer a unique opportunity for cigar connoisseurs to continue enjoying great cigars all-the-while enriching their lives by earning extra income.” So how does one join this excellent sounding opportunity?
First time members must pay a “fee of $89.98 includes 5 super premium cigars and your first years annual membership.” As the C.E.O material states you must also keep “an ongoing commitment of $29.99 per month for which you will recieve 5 super premium cigars every month.” As part of the C.E.O terms of service any new member must also sponsor 5 new members within the first 60 days or they will be removed from the program. Each year C.E.O. will renew your membership on the anniversary date for a discounted $59.99.
Now that you are a certified member of the Connoisseur Enterprise Organization you will earn commission by recruiting other members to join. Per the C.E.O. literature, “You will earn on a monthly basis on all active members in your fi rst generation row at the rate of .50 cents per person, in the second generation .50 cents per person, in the third generation .60 cents per person, in the fourth generation .65 cents per person, and in the fifth and final row .85 cents per person.” If the “tree“, or pyramid, is at full capacity with 3,905 people you can except a monthly income of $3,152. Arganese then takes %10 of your total earnings and places them in a “purchase account“.
The funds that consist of the purchase account can only be spent from the C.E.O. catalog. Again, to ensure shares the wealth, or that the pyramid scheme goes on, “10% commission (minus shipping & handling) of the total purchase will be distributed equally amongst you and the four (4) immediate upline Affiliates.”
For your participation in this scheme you will receive 5 cigars distributed to you on a monthly basis. These cigars are nothing more than the standard cigar put out under their struggling brand Arganese Cigars. The bands have been replaced with a colorful C.E.O. design in attempt to mask the relationship between the two companies.
To quickly summarize: Gene Arganese launches a pyramid like company called Connoisseur Enterprise Organization. For a fee of $89.98 plus $29.99 each month you get 5 Arganese cigars and the ability to sign other people up for this “opportunity“.
So is this a pyramid scheme? Or perhaps another great way to make it rich using your other cigar smoking friends?
Now what did Gene Arganese have to say about his venture?
Many who knew of the C.E.O. program had mentioned to us that Gene had always denied being a part of this program. Perhaps he was afraid how the cigar community would react knowing he had set such a program up.
Lucky for us at puffingcigars.com we had the opportunity to sit down with him as he was visiting one of our favorite shops.
Fueled with curiosity Wyatt had asked the main question “What’s up with the C.E.O. MLM thing?”
With a quick brush off Arganese had only admitted that he made the cigars for the organization and had no other involvement. And there laid the end of the conversation as Gene quickly moved on to new subjects.
Prior to our meeting Arganese we wanted to make sure we had our facts in line. To show you he does indeed run this program and he is flat out lying to consumers/shop owners/ everyone about running the organization we provide you with the evidence.
First the domain: As one would expect, Gene Arganese registered the domain with privacy. However for some unseen reason, if he was denying involvement to us, why he would leave the registrant information to be shown. It reads: Registrant: Arganese, Gene ATTN: CEOMLM.COM
Secondly: As he admitted, the cigars on the website all have the exact same description.
Next: The address listed on the CEOMLM.com website lists: 149 Atlantic Avenue. Westerly, RI 02891.This is the same address of Sandy Shore Motel. A motel that, from the About Us page, informs us that is “Proudly owned and operated by the Arganese family since 2001…”
Oddly: Doing an open Google search on people associated with the domain we find that someone involved with the program is named Sandy. Sandy however is using a referring email address of email@example.com. ArganeseInternational.com happens to be the domain all internal employees use. You can verify this by the looking at the official contact information provided by Gene Arganese to CigarCyclopedia.com.
Almost Done: Clicking the enroll button from the website leads you to a sign up form that list the top referrer, the top of the pyramid as Gene Arganese himself.
Finally: The icing on the cake would have to come from the CEOMLM.com terms of service. In section 2.1 the document explains: “These Policies and Procedures, in their present form and as amended at the sole discretion of Arganese Cigars, LLC dba CEO. (hereafter “CEO” or the “Company”), are incorporated into, and form an integral part of, the CEO Affiliate Agreement.”
Our Final Thoughts:
Why would Gene Arganese deny being a part of the Connoisseur Enterprise Organization?
Why are employees, or people from within the Arganese Cigars company, working as affiliates to the CEOMLM.com website?
Do you really think people are getting a valuable business opportunity?
Mr. Arganese, don’t you think you should be helping the integrity of the cigar community in these trying times instead of giving it a bit of a black eye? You are after all a manufacture. This puts you in a position where you should be building relationships with the cigar community and with the people on the outside, not trying to exploit them.
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