LEXINGTON, N.C. -- U.S. Securities and Exchange officials said Zeek Rewards was operating in classic Ponzi scheme fashion before officials shut down the Lexington headquarters Friday.
NOTICE: The Attorney General's Office has set up a special hotline for Zeek Rewards users and affiliates. The number is (919) 716-6046.
Paul Berks is the owner of Rex Venture Group, which operates Zeek Rewards and Zeekler.com.
Zeekler.com was a penny auction website in which investors were promised payouts of up to 50 percent of the company's daily net profits. They were awarded points, which they could use to cash out or reinvest.
"Everybody said, 'Oh there's nothing to it, nothing too it. It's just penny playing,'" said Marie Harrison, who lives in Lexington.
A Zeekler investor posted a handwritten sign on the front window of the building on Saturday afternoon reading, "We forgive you. Please restructure and save our dreams!" That investor didn't want to talk on camera.
"People talked very positively about it," said Robbie Mallard, who was asked to invest several times. "It was good people, good friends of mine from my church that were talking about it who had invested. They really thought it was going to be something good."
Officials said Zeek Rewards has paid out nearly $375 million to investors and is holding onto $225 million. The federal courts now have control of that money.
"I had a lot of friends and family that did invest and I hope they didn't lose too much," Mallard said.
Berks has agreed to settle charges against him in exchange of not admitting or denying the allegations. He will also have to give up his interest in the company and its assets plus pay a $4 million fine.
Investors who have questions can contact the Attorney General's Office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.