Edmonton

U.S. judge freezes assets of Alberta internet salesman

A United States judge froze the American assets of Sherwood Park, Alta. internet millionaire and accused fraudster Jesse Willms and ordered him to change the way he does business.

A United States judge froze the American assets of Sherwood Park, Alta. internet millionaire and accused fraudster Jesse Willms and ordered him to change the way he does business.

The Seattle judge issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday morning banning Willms from using  negative option selling, said Robert Schroeder, with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.  

According to the commission, Willms cheated customers out of $450 million in an internet scam where products or services advertised as free trial offers or risk-free — such as health and beauty products — were actually being billed to customers' credit cards monthly.

A U.S. judge froze the assets of Jesse Willms, shown here in an undated photograph. Willms is accused of duping customers out of $450 million. ((ABC News))

More products would be sent automatically unless the customers navigated a complicated cancellation process to stop the charges.

The commission claims customers in Canada, the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and New Zealand were defrauded.

"If he's going to comply with the order, and we would expect that he would, he has to stop using the means with which he's been selling," said Schroeder. 

The judge also froze the assets of Willms and his companies, he said.

"If we get to a final order in this case, we might have an opportunity to get some money back to consumers," he said.

As most of Willms' assets are in Canada, the commission will soon be speaking to Canadian authorities, said Schroeder.

Willms has blamed unscrupulous business associates who he claims defrauded him by stealing credit card numbers in order to generate commissions with bogus sales.

Willms is scheduled for trial in the U.S. in July 2012.