Supplemental Brief filed by State November 16, 1992.
Antell,*fn1 Dreier and Skillman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Dreier, J.A.D.
Defendant appeals from a conviction of promoting gambling, N.J.S.A. 2C:37-2, a third-degree crime. She was sentenced to a one-year probationary term. Defendant was acquitted of third-degree theft by deception, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4.
The "gambling" involved in this case was a four-level (three-step) pyramid scheme,*fn2 called the Investment Network. Each participant adopted a pseudonym; defendant's was "Star." Defendant contends that she was drawn into the "network" along with other friends, and she readily admitted that she used her home and appeared at homes of others in order to get more people to join the pyramid so that she and others could be paid. For her $1,500 "investment," she received the promised $12,000 reward, and also was found to have her name on other pyramids. Thus, the State reasoned, she was not merely a player in the scheme, but an organizer. The participants met under the auspices of sponsoring groups such as churches, and were given written assurances that the "network" was not a pyramid
scheme and was legal. The initial organizers were not identified.
The theft by deception indictment focused on the deceptive nature of the plan, but as noted earlier defendant was acquitted of third-degree theft by deception. We therefore will analyze only the gambling conviction.
Defendant raises two points on this appeal:
IT WAS ERROR TO DENY DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL.
THE VERDICT REGARDING COUNT II WAS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE.
While defendant contends there was no proof of mens rea and therefore she should not have been convicted, the presence of her name on more than one pyramid (once she had reached the top of one pyramid) indicates that she was involved more than as an investor of $1,500. She also argues that the scheme was legal and that all of the participants understood the plan as legal. Her argument is clearly incorrect. Pyramid sales schemes are prohibited by the Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-2. Kugler v. Koscot Interplanetary, Inc., 120 N.J. Super. 216, 233-235, 293 ...