A U.S. district court, at the request of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has temporarily shut down an envelope-stuffing operation that allegedly scammed cash-strapped consumers by falsely promising they could make substantial income working home jobs.

The FTC charged that Louis Salatto and his company, Global U.S. Resources, conned consumers into paying up-front fees by making phony promises about the earning potential of their envelope-stuffing operation.

Big ad campaign

According to the complaint, Salatto bought classified ads in local pennysavers and community newspapers that promised weekly earnings ranging from $1,200 to $4,400. Consumers who paid the up-front fee did not receive the materials they needed to do the envelope stuffing, the income promised, or the refund Salatto said they could get upon request.

The court order halts the allegedly illegal tactics of Salatto and Global U.S. Resources and freezes their assets while the FTC seeks a permanent prohibition against the defendants' false and deceptive claims.

Since at least 2005, Salatto has advertised nationwide through large classified advertising networks such as Gateway Media Inc. and National Advertising Network Inc., according to the FTC complaint. Ads in pennysavers and community papers stated "No Experience Necessary! Start Immediately!" They provided a toll-free number at which consumers were instructed to leave a message with their contact information.

Holding the bag

Consumers who responded to these ads received a "registration form" that typically stated they would receive $8 for every brochure they stuffed, plus 25 percent of every sale made as a result of their mailing, the complaint alleged. They were instructed to pay a "refundable" fee -- typically $40 -- by cash, check, or money order.

After paying the fee, consumers typically received either nothing or a pamphlet titled "Secret Home Employment Guide," which listed other bogus work-at-home opportunities and provided instructions on how to market them, the FTC complaint stated. Consumers who requested refunds were typically unable to reach anyone, and could obtain the refunds only by submitting a complaint to a Better Business Bureau (BBB) or law enforcement agency.

Catherine of Long Beach, CA, got burned by one such operation. "I answered an Ad in the paper, American Publication, for stuffing envelopes," she tells ConsumerAffairs.com. "I sent the requested $40.00 money order to get started. They, in turn, sent my info to Freedom Publications who requested another $39.95. BBB came up with a different company for the phone number. No refund given to date."

Then there's Jeremy of Kasson, MN, who tells ConsumerAffairs.com how he dodged a bullet. "I responded to an ad that claimed you could get paid $25000-$5000 per month, for stuffing envelopes, at a rate of $5 per envelope stuffed." He says because there was no up-front money requested, he asked for more information. "What I got back was a single piece of paper, giving me little more info than I already had, and asking for a $40 registration fee to get started. Now I am smart enough to know that you never send money to a PO Box -- particularly one out of state -- with little or no information on the legitimacy of the opportunity. As I researched thing further, I came to the conclusion that this is without a doubt a scam."

Read more about Home Jobs scams.