Grandmaster of Russia’s pyramid cult
The pitch from the pyramid scheme sweeping Russia has undeniable appeal: make money and make the world a better place, it says. Like thousands of others, Roman Vorobyev believed the scheme would deliver big returns for him and cascading wealth for others.
So in April Vorobyev ploughed 400,000 roubles ($12,500) of savings into a self-styled ‘mutual aid fund,’ known as MMM-2011, promoted by Sergei Mavrodi, a guru-like financier, former lawmaker and convicted fraudster.
“I definitely believed that everything was possible,” said Vorobyev, a newspaper designer in Irkutsk who invested in the fund despite a remarkable disclosure by Mavrodi - that it was indeed a pyramid scheme. “If we all help each other, more and more people will come and there will be an endless inflow of money,” he said.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Since parting with his cash, Vorobyev, 45, has failed to reap the double-digit monthly returns that were advertised, and he’s lost hope of ever seeing his money again. MMM-2011 has closed and is belatedly being investigated by the police, who say the scheme had no chance of delivering the gains it promised.