Coalition: This is a Guest Post from one of our followers, Rebekah Johnston and her husband Philip. She shares her experience of losing almost everything after her husband’s business partner and his wife used money from business accounts to meet business benchmarks within an essential oils MLM. We have redacted the information of business couple for this article, however all publicly available information regarding this case is available here. We share this with you in the hope that you are aware of the secondhand damage MLMs can play.
NOTE: T██ is B██’ ‘s spouse.
Multi-level marketers, network marketers and people in direct sales seem to portray themselves as dream-makers, with the idea that you can pursue all your dreams by getting involved with their company. Ironically, some of these high-ranking people are in reality dream crushers. This is our story…
In 2009, my husband partnered on a fishing lodge business, with remote locations in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Together with capital contribution and further loans to the business (Alaska Fishing Adventures LLC), we invested a total of $313,000. This was our life savings, and the business became our livelihood. We continued to sacrifice and loan money anytime his partner, B██ G████, said he needed it to pay employees, a new boat motor, etc. B██ was the majority owner and manager and in control of all the finances.
In 2013, B██’s wife, T███ (J███) invited me to several of her essential oil classes. In a gesture of good will, I went to two of them and even purchased oils through her. We wanted to support her in her new business venture. (This was before I learned about multi-level marketing in depth and of course well before we discovered the theft).
That same year, T██ took part in Diamond Club with doTERRA, a program that involved a lot of traveling. The G███’s even signed our fishing lodge business up as its own wellness advocate (Alaska Fishing Adventures LLC) and purchased product under that name, all without my husband’s knowledge (the co-owner of the business), presumably to gain bonuses and rank. They also purchased product under other people’s accounts using the fishing lodge business’ money, again presumably to gain bonuses and rank. The following year, T██ and B██ hit Diamond rank.
By the end of 2014, we uncovered B██ and T██ had been stealing from us and our business. During a meeting with them, T██ admitted they “meant to pay it back” eventually. Some of the ways they used the stolen money was to pay personal back taxes, child-support and private schooling for B██’s kid, lots of travel, restaurants, extra salary checks, T██’s personal credit card, product purchases from doTERRA, creditors from B██’s previous sole proprietorship, cable TV, and personal items like an iPad, clothes, camera, and more.
Not only this, but we discovered credit card kiting and other deceptive money transferring, B██ taking a 6-month advance salary without Philip’s knowledge, employees that weren’t getting paid, years of unpaid and un-filed employee taxes, and debts to various creditors.
During another meeting in which we heard an “apology,” we later found out they were at that very time buying hundreds of dollars worth of wine and gifts with business money. More shocking to us, they were not addressing how they were going to take care of all the business liabilities nor addressing how they would resolve the unpaid, un-filed employee taxes.
Taking Legal Action
We finally filed a lawsuit against B██ and T██ in 2015, after coming to a dead end trying to resolve these serious issues. We saw no real signs they were willing to do the right thing.
An independent forensic accountant prepared a report of her findings for the court. She created a graph showing the climax of the theft occurred in 2013 and 2014. Those years happened to be the years T██ was involved with Diamond Club and then hit Diamond rank, well on the way to the top of the dōTERRA pyramid.
After a three day trial in 2016, the judge determined B██ acted fraudulently towards Philip and later gave us punitive damages. The judge granted injunctive relief to Philip and permission for us to put the fishing lodge business into bankruptcy. After selling all the assets, we were able to pay almost all the creditors and the IRS and take care of most of our liabilities associated with the fishing lodge business. We felt a mixture of relief at closing down our business with dignity while at the same time great sadness that we missed a great opportunity if only the G███’s had acted with integrity.
At trial, I showed the court a correlation between B██ and T██ taking money from Alaska Fishing Adventures LLC and spending it on doTERRA products. Their personal financial records showed thousands of dollars being spent on doTERRA products every month.
Just months after trial, T██ created an LLC to protect the doTERRA business from creditors like us.
In 2017, the judge signed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law showing that B██ and T██ were both responsible for the theft of $278,000 and caused great damage to us personally and the LLC. He granted us a judgment against them totaling $473,558 (now reaching well over half-a-million due to interest and non-payment).
In 2018, we filed a motion asking the court to nullify T██’s LLC, because there was a lot of evidence it was set up fraudulently. However, she immediately declared chapter 13 bankruptcy to stop our action. She went bankrupt with roughly $115K debt to the IRS which was 10 yrs worth of personal unpaid taxes and years of un-filed taxes, $26K in credit card debt, a $25K car loan, and $107K owed to my husband and me (her portion of the judgement).
At present, we are attempting to collect what little we can of our judgment, but through sneaky legal maneuvering they have ultimately given us little hope of recouping our full judgment. Fortunately, my husband is a very hard worker and pursuing a new career path, and we are on the road to recovery and moving headstrong in a new direction.
Impressively, B██ and T██ have maintained a high standard of living. In the middle of all this they have renovated their upper middle-class home in Alaska, traveled with their family to Costa Rica and all over the U.S., paid for two separate homes, taken their family to ski resorts, and maintained an “Instagram” lifestyle. Meanwhile, their finances tell a different story.
Not only has it been financially and emotionally painful to experience this ourselves, it has been extremely painful to see how others have been harmed by this couple as well. We are certainly not the only ones. It has also been sad to see the self-destructive path B██ and T██ have chosen for themselves.
T██ is quoted on the webpage of another doTERRA wellness advocate, shedding some light on the very mindset that has led to all this trouble: “The J████ are your definitive dreamers and have lived out their dreams…so there is no one better to lead a dreamer’s bootcamp than S██!! The information was clear, relatable, and inspiring… who doesn’t love the thought of filling your cart at Whole Foods without worrying about the total at the register?? The advice on money mindset was so key for many of us in the audience- I’ve been using her advice to live out abundance NOW!” — T██ G███ / Diamond Leader (http://www.nestinggypsy.com/dreambigbootcamp)
We are baffled that B██ and T██ are at the top of this company, recently winning a trip to Hawaii and recognized on stage as reaching Blue Diamond status, probably grossing over $465,000 a year now. They are in the top 2% of leaders of a multi-level marketing company whose policy manual states that wellness advocates are to do the following, “Conduct themselves and their business activities in an ethical, moral, legal and financially honest manner. Wellness Advocates should not engage in activities and behavior that would bring disrespect or embarrassment to doTERRA, its corporate officers, employees, themselves, or other Wellness Advocates.” (https://www.doterra.com/US/en/policy-manual-code-of-ethics)
A Question of Faith
As Christians ourselves, it is most offensive to us is that this couple operates under the guise of Christianity and much of their network marketing is among other Christians. When a friend or fellow Christian approaches us with something, it is easy to let down our barrier. There is a trust aspect, and we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. This was one of the reasons we trusted them for so long before we uncovered the theft.
We do embrace the fact that the Bible teaches we are to have a heart of forgiveness, but it also does not turn a blind eye to continued injustice. We stand up for what is right and for others who have been harmed and have mourned many times the fact that this can continue. My husband spoke recently to someone who will not walk into a church because of hypocrites like B██ and T██, and we continue to plead with their church to act. We are so thankful we did take legal action, because it stopped B██ and T██ from doing more harm in our name.
We have given them so much time to do the right thing and remained fairly discrete for the past few years. My desire in sharing our story now is to help expose the dangers of getting involved with multi-level marketing. If people only knew the truth behind the scenes and the true cost of rising to the top. This couple has stolen and gone bankrupt funding a lifestyle they are selling to others as a way to become financially independent. It’s just a big lie.
What they did wiped out fifteen years of our savings and seven years of my husband’s most productive work years. The financial impact and legal fees will affect us the rest of our lives. This all because of greed on the behalf of a couple seeking to make it big in the world of multi-level-marketing. While their theft began well before doTERRA came into the picture, we believe the multi-level marketing mindset accelerated their moral decline and financial desperation. We believe that while other people may start out with good intentions, the multi-level marketing business model pushes a false reality and a cultish vibe that destroys relationships, destroys families, destroys dreams. It is not a clean way of doing business and making money, and it is not a clean way of interacting with people. We only hope our story will help prevent others from falling into the trap of multi-level marketing.
Philip and Rebekah Johnston