Some have wondered whatever happened to notorious “get-rich-quick” guru Bill Gouldd?

He ran something-called Equinox; a multi-level marketing (MLM) business that once pulled $194 million dollars in annual sales.

However, a judge ruled that Equinox was a “pyramid scheme” and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shut it down.

A receiver was appointed and Gouldd’s financial empire was quite literally liquidated.

Once the high-profile MLM guru sought status and attention through his mansion, luxury cars and a yacht, but when his business crumbled it seemed Bill vanished from sight.

A Gouldd victim called Equinox, “One of the best planned and rehearsed scams I have ever seen!”

The mantra often recited by Bill’s seemingly brainwashed distributors was “Fake it till you make it.”

But Gouldd found out you can’t fake the books to the FTC.

Two of the MLM guru’s disciples, Kale Flagg and Rich Von (previously known as Richard Vonalvensleben) cooked up there own scheme essentially copying the master. That effort was called Trek Alliance. And the FTC shut them down too.

So whatever happened to the master planner, or “scammer”?

It seems that it’s hard for MLM gurus like Bill Gouldd to move on to a normal life. More often they appear to prefer working a crowd, rather than really working.

So the aging Gouldd is back on the road again, this time with a new weekend seminar called “Peak Performance,” designed “exclusively” for a yet another venture called “Avant-garde Marketing Solutions.”

Bill will be holding forth tomorrow morning through Sunday evening at the Los Angeles International Airport Marriott Hotel, it’s all day and all Gouldd (10:00 AM till 6:00 PM).

And for those on the East Coast Bill is bound for Philadelphia.

Next weekend Gouldd is scheduled to perform his traveling show at the Loews Hotel on Market St. in the city known for “brotherly love.”

Oh brother!

It should be noted that Pennsylvania’s Attorney General once said that Gouldd’s “illegal business practices deceived consumers into spending thousands of dollars when it knew the vast majority of participants would never recover their money.”

If you call the LAX Marriott there is still room at Bill’s seminar. According to the events manager at the hotel registration has been slow.

Can it be that Bill is past his “Peak Performance”?

But could the coming seminars still be an opportunity anyway?

That is, for Equinox victims to confront Bill Gouldd face-to-face.

Bill probably won’t appreciate this, though some of those attending his seminars might benefit from a few Equinox testimonials.

After all, there was a time when Gouldd encouraged Equinox participants to speak out at his meetings.

MLM schemes are so often little more than smoke and mirrors.

Applying basic business and marketing principles to an MLM proposition is an invaluable tool to discern its worth and/or risk. Such due diligence is also a means of avoiding the heartache, financial losses and humiliation that so many former Equinox distributors have endured.

But it seems that no matter how many people are victimized by “get-rich-quick” schemes, there will still be someone like Bill Gouldd selling “dreams.”

FYI—Bill says he wants seminar participants to “come prepared with pencils, paper and a calculator.”

Hopefully they will be “prepared” by researching the facts about Bill’s last business plan before becoming involved in his new enterprise.

BTW—Meals will not be included, but there is likely to be bologna delivered.

The old adage “you can’t take it with you” applies to everyone, even gurus.

Swami Satchidananda, a guru and purported “cult leader” died last year and moved on to his next life, that is for those who believe in reincarnation. But the octogenarian left behind quite a bit of worldly baggage.

Satchidananda accumulated prime real estate in Manhattan, which provides space for an Integral Yoga International (IYI) school and a vegetarian grocery store.

There is also the sprawling ashram he established in Virginia called “Yogaville,” which includes a $2 million dollar temple and its own airport (the swami liked to fly and had his own plane).

The guru’s property holdings alone are worth millions.

Yet another legacy of the late swami is the Yogaville Federal Credit Union. After all, what’s an ashram without its own credit union?

According to official records this credit union has more than $4 million dollars in assets, with two employees on salary to manage its funds.

Satchidananda left behind a core group of faithful followers at Yogaville and a few in Manhattan too.

And since their guru’s death those devotees continue to manage the swami’s considerable material legacy.

This all seems to provide proof positive of another not so spiritual reality; If a “cult leader” wants to keep a “cult” going after he or she is gone, do some estate planning.

Key people at the employment firm Taylor Hodson are long-time followers of a notorious “cult leader” named Sharon Gans.

Gans runs something called “the work,” a school that charges its students substantial monthly fees, which has afforded the former actress/”cult leader” a lavish lifestyle.

Company President Minerva Taylor, Vice President Janice Crosby, Director of Temp. Services Suzanne Griffin and Senior Account Executive Cyntia May are all long-time Gans students.

Some say Gans herself may be a “silent partner” at Taylor Hodson.

The notorious “cult leader” fled San Francisco in the 1970s amidst allegations of abuse. But she eventually made her new home Manhattan.

Gans primary residence is now within a luxury New York apartment building that includes celebrity residents such as Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. Tomei is reportedly her next door neighbor.

In March of 2002 Gans and her group found themselves in the media spotlight.

Rosie O’Donnell went on the warpath after discovering that an Oscar-nominated documentary she donated her voiceover for was connected to a “homophobic cult” that also had historically excluded blacks.

The “cult” being scrutinized was none other than the Gans group.

The talk show host came out swinging when Gans was exposed as a “Gay basher.” O’Donnell urged Oscar voters to ban the documentary, which subsequently lost.

However, all the bad press did not deter the loyalty of Gans fans over at Taylor Hodson, who remained ever faithful to their controversial leader.

Some former members of “the work” say that getting work through Taylor Hodson might include at least some exposure to the teachings of Sharon Gans.

Gans has historically encouraged her followers to develop recruitment opportunities within their daily lives. And this type of subtle proselytizing has at times proven effective.

Is it possible that some of the executives over at Taylor Hodson do at least a little proselytizing part-time? And are some of the professionals recruited by the company perhaps recruited into just a little more than they signed up for?

Denis Leary held his third annual bash for New York’s Bravest at a hotel in Manhattan

“I started this after 9/11 to help the families of firefighters,” he told Cindy Adams at the New York Post (October 24).

Other notable celebrities such as Jim Gandolfini, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Julianne Moore and John McEnroe have been past supporters of this event.

And celebrities at helping out for this year’s bash included Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Hurley, Hugh Grant and Kiefer Sutherland.

However, one star may have a somewhat hidden agenda of his own.

“Tom Cruise has been behind the scenes for a year,” Leary said. The devout Scientologist is reportedly concerned about “guys with breathing problems from the smoke.”

Leary says Cruise wants “to build them a steam and sauna place on Long Island…[to help] their condition.” And that the actor has “gotten involved with funding it privately.”

But what the well-meaning Leary and other celebs may not know is that almost any charity Cruise becomes involved in is usually connected to Scientology in some way, whether its an education project or NYC rescue workers.

No doubt that the proposed “steam and sauna place” is based upon what Scientologists call the “purification rundown” a religious ritual they believe purifies people. The same rundown is touted by “Downtown Medical,” a controversial clinic in lower Manhattan closely associated with Scientology.

Perhaps Denis Leary should be careful about at least one celebrity he has included in his well-meaning annual event.

An heir to the Ford Motor fortune wants to build a center for the Krishna movement in Moscow, but has encountered stiff opposition from the Russian Orthodox Church reports the London Guardian.

The group has often been called a “cult” and has a sordid history of child sexual abuse. And one of its most important leaders was criminally convicted and sent to prison.

However, Ford seems oblivious to Krishna’s troubled past and intent upon giving them millions for construction projects. He has already dropped $10 million for what has been labeled the Krishna “Vatican” in India.

The leader of the group’s Russian devotees is seeing red though, over the Orthodox Church’s opposition to his Moscow building plans.

He called the historic church “one of the most totalitarian sects in the world.”

Sounds like “the pot calling the kettle black” doesn’t it?

Krishna’s history of dictators began with its founder “His Divine Grace” Prabhupada, down to the present hierarchy.

“For me the most important thing is to spread the Hindu knowledge,” claimed the Krishna leader.

But Hindus have said that the so-called “Krishna Consciousness movement” is little more than an aberration and fringe group, outside of mainstream Hinduism.

And within the ranks of “cults” it is Krishna that appears to be “one of the most totalitarian sects in the world.”

Madonna has morphed from pop diva to virtually a full-time proselytizer in her ever-increasing promotional blitz and missionary effort on behalf of Philip Berg and his so-called “Kaballah Centre.”

Visit and the first thing you see dead center, alongside a glamour shot of the middle-aged icon, is a link to “learn more about Kaballah for kids.”

Madonna’s new children’s book English Roses, a give-away at the Gap, is also hyper-linked and closely related to the same “Kaballah Centre” pitch “Spirituality for Kids.”

It seems that almost everything Madonna does is somehow tied to the Berg business.

The woman who once sang “papa don’t preach” never seems to stop preaching.

Madonna’s daughter Lourdes may be getting the worst of it.

The former “Material Girl’s” child has little choice other than to follow her recast spiritual mom’s religious preference. Madonna sends her daughter to classes and programs at the controversial center, which has been called a “cult.”

Maybe some day as the girl matures she will reject her mother’s “spirituality,” as Madonna once opted out of what she perceived as the rigidity of her family’s Catholicism.

And then Lourdes may end up singing the reprise, “Mama don’t preach.”

Shana Muse, a former member of the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) in Spindale, North Carolina, has been separated from her four children more than a year.

When Muse left the controversial church, which has been called a “cult,” members arranged to take custody away from the confused mother.

It seems that they felt the mother’s parental rights should be superceded by the church’s prerogatives.

At first it looked like the church might prevail, since its members wield considerable clout in the small southern town.

The founder and virtual dictator of WOFF is Jane Whaley, a woman that is used to getting her way in Spindale.

WOFF is known for its authoritarian structure, harsh discipline and the bizarre practice of “blasting” members with shouted prayers for supposed deliverance.

One couple within the tight knit communal group kept Muse’s children and claimed they had legal custody through a rather contrived contract, that was signed by the mother when she fled the church to seek professional counseling.

Muse’s struggle to regain custody became a public battle. But this month a district court judge finally put an end to her ordeal and ordered the four minor children out of WOFF reported the Daily Courier.

“I had trust in God…it’s a happy day and a sad day because I know what my kids are going through,” the mother said.

At first after the court ruling church members apparently hid the children, but eventually they were surrendered to authorities reported the Daily Courier.

The family reunion will be delayed by a transition period that could take months, managed by the Department of Social Services.

The judge ruled decisively though against WOFF.

He stated for the record that “the environment created at WOFF has an adverse effect on the health, safety and welfare of children.” And added he found “clear and convincing evidence the children were abused and neglected by isolation, excessive corporal punishment and blasting while at WOFF.”

The WOFF family that kept the children over the past year was denied visitation. And the children are restricted from setting foot on church property.

An interesting footnote was the employ of cult apologist Dick Anthony by WOFF to assist in its legal effort to keep the minor children from returning to their mother.

Anthony charges $3,500.00 per day for his services plus expenses.

The self-described “forensic psychologist” sat in the courtroom scribbling notes in an apparent effort to somehow help his client spin a defense against allegations of “cult” abuse.

However, despite the big bill Anthony must have sent someone in the group, he completely failed to have a positive affect on the case’s outcome.

Jane Whaley and WOFF have suffered a severe and very public setback.

Whaley may rule over her flock like a queen, but she has found there are limits to her power. And it seems the political influence she has historically enjoyed in the town of Spindale has hit an impasse.

As for Shana Muse she still has difficult journey ahead. The estranged mother must work to restore a meaningful relationship with her four children, who have been under the control of Whaley and her faithful followers for some time.

“The court finds that WOFF authorities attempt to exercise complete control over the mind, body and spirit of its members, both adults and children,” the judge’s ruling read.

It is likely that Muse will require professional help to break the hold WOFF may still have over her children’s young minds.

The governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson was recently scrutinized for flying around in a helicopter that costs the taxpayers of his state $495.00 per hour reports Albuquerque’s KRQE TV.

One of the governor’s stops was at an “International Peace Prayer Day” at the so-called “Sikh Dharma” (also known as 3HO) near Española on June 21. Richardson was the keynote speaker at this event.

However, the Española religious enclave has a troubled history and it has been called a “cult.”

Mainstream Indian Sikhs have often dismissed and disavowed both 3HO’s leader and his teachings.

Critics of Yogi Bhajan, founder of the group, say the authoritarian guru not only exerts dictatorial control over his followers, but also has a historical predilection for demanding sexual favors too.

Bhajan’s devotees are largely a collection of counter-culture “hippie” holdovers from the 1970s. Westerners who typically changed their Anglo surname to “Singh” and “Khalsa” and/or whatever else their guru wanted.

Bhajan and his associates have a history of scandals, ranging from financial fraud, to sex and illegal drug trafficking.

Guru Jot Singh (also known as Robert Alvin Taylor) a key leader within 3HO who now lives in the Española community, was indicted as an international drug smuggler. Taylor was caught and convicted for the illegal importation of marijuana and served a sentence in federal prison.

Why would Governor Bill Richardson, a former US congressman, past Secretary of Energy and United Nations Ambassador agree to be a “keynote speaker” for such a specious group?

This is an interesting story that began decades ago.

It seems that Bill, a dedicated fund-raiser, probably feels indebted to the guru for his generously arranged campaign contributions. And a cursory check over Richardson’s historic contributors list will reveal more than a few “Singhs” and “Khalsas” that helped to fill his campaign coffers.

Somewhat disturbing though is the length Bill Richardson was willing to go, in an effort to help out his friend the guru and the Española “cult compound.”

On October 25, 1985 Congressman Bill Richardson was “hand-delivered” a letter from the Chancellor of the “Sikh Dharma.”

The letter said in part; “We have been informed that the above [phone] numbers are and have been the subject of electronic surveillance by the United States government during the past several months…Would you please make an inquiry with the Justice Department, the CIA, the National Security Commission and any other government agency that may be involved in this surveillance and inform me of the results of your inquiry.”

Bill did exactly what was asked. He sent a letter days later to the FBI.

Richardson wrote, “I have received the attached letter from one of my constituents…Any information you can provide my office to help us respond…will be most helpful.”

The congressman also assigned one of his staff “to handle [the] matter.”

In December the FBI responded, “A check was made of our records here at FBI Headquarters and in our offices in Albuquerque and Los Angeles, and no information was located to indicate that the Sikh Dharma Brotherhood is now or has been the subject of electronic surveillance by the FBI.”

But what Bill didn’t know is that he had contacted the wrong federal law-enforcement agency.

Apparently it was the DEA that likely had the “cult” under surveillance, as the eventual arrest of Guru Jot Singh in 1987 for drug-trafficking would seem to indicate.

An interesting footnote is that another congressman also wrote the FBI about the New Mexico “cult” years earlier.

In 1979 then Congressman Jack Kemp wrote to the director of the FBI, “May I please have your assistance in addressing the concerns expressed to me in the enclosed letter from my constituent regarding the group her sister is a member of? As you will note, [she] is extremely concerned about the activities of the leader of this group and feels that her sister is a victim rather than a member…Has the FBI ever had occasion to investigate this group or the activities of its leader, Yogi Bhajan…if it is suspected that this man is in violation of a federal law…can some action be initiated.”

Kemp’s constituent wrote that her sister was “unable to reason” due to the influence of Bhajan and his “Western cult.”

She also said, “The only vacations [my sister] takes are for the purpose of taking more courses from Yogi Bhajan, for which she and her husband pay. Meanwhile Yogi Bhajan is well fed and maintained. He drives a late model Lincoln Continental and lives in a mansion in Los Angeles.”

In the years since, despite criminal convictions and lawsuits, Yogi Bhajan continued to prosper. At times his followers might be caught in various scandals, but their guru kept living the good life.

And at least one of his thriving businesses, Akal Security would benefit from government contracts.

After 9-11 the Albuquerque Tribune quoted an AKAL spokesperson describing the burst of activity after that tragedy.

“The largest portion of our work is federal government facilities – courthouses, offices, military, NASA…we’ve added several hundred people to those contracts…especially…in Manhattan, a few blocks from the World Trade Center…150 court security officers [are] at that courthouse,” the newspaper was told.

Akal, became the single largest court security contractor for the U.S. Marshals Service. The company received a five-year, $88.2 million contract to provide federal court security services within the Fifth Judicial Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

In New Mexico alone Akal reportedly provided services at the Santa Fe airport and to railroads and utilities.

Akal is directly controlled by Khalsa International Industries and Trades (KIIT), “A family of international businesses…In the vision and under the mentorship of Siri Singh Sahib [also known as Yogi Bhajan]” says a Sikh Dharma newsletter.

Akal states at its official website; “In 1987, Akal began providing contract security services to the U.S. Government…[and] received numerous contracts to protect critical national facilities, including White Sands Missile Range, U.S. Army Records Center, and DEA’s International Intelligence Center…many more officers serve on federal contracts protecting major government office buildings, federal detention facilities, and critical military installations.”

How did Akal do so well?

Were there special connections or considerations that helped Akal start and then sustain such stunning growth within the lucrative government end of its burgeoning business?

Maybe Governor Bill Richardson knows?

Did this “cult” of constituents benefit from its special relationship with the man who now hops by helicopter to keep his appointment as their “keynote speaker”?

And by the way, should Akal with its dubious “cult” background, be providing security at “critical national facilities…DEA’s International Intelligence Center… federal detention facilities, and…military installations”?

Maybe the department of Homeland Security should check all this out?

Note: All the letters cited were obtained from federal files under the Freedom of Information Act.

Evidence of increasing ties between Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Minister Lois Farrakhan and Rev. Moon of the Unification Church can be seen in an issue of the NOI Final Call newsletter this month.

Final Call contributor Mother Tynnetta Muhammad writes about her “series of articles with the Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon and the leadership of the Unification Church, and [her] recent visit to Korea and Mongolia.”

In her published contribution this month Mother Muhammad acknowledges “those individuals who have worked silently in the background to establish another [Korean] link to the Nation of Islam as manufacturers of products designed for the Exodus Program.”

The “Exodus Program” seems to be a Moon-inspired business venture and new funding source for Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.

Mother Muhammad’s series of articles lauding the Unification Church and Rev. Moon can be seen on-line at the Final Call archive.

It looks like Moon has become a meaningful source of cash for Farrakhan.

The former “Material Girl” now spends much of her time promoting and proselytizing for the “Kaballah Centre,” led by Philip Berg. The controversial group that has often been called a “cult.”

Recently the middle aged diva reportedly recruited pop singer Britney Spears, now it seems she may have snagged fashion designer Stella McCartney, daughter of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney reports the London Evening Standard.

It seems Ms. McCartney is wearing a red string around her wrist, which is typically worn by Berg’s followers to supposedly ward off evil.

Madonna certainly seems increasingly obsessed with Berg and his “cult.”

She drinks “Kaballah water,” pushes children’s books linked to the group, recruits celebrities and donated big bucks for a Berg building and to buy her pet “Kaballah” teacher a home in LA.

With so much time spent on the “Kaballah Centre,” what’s left for Madonna’s career?

Is it because the aging diva’s career is sinking that she has so much time for the Berg group?

Or is it because Madonna spent so much time on this “cult” her career is sinking?

Madonna may be a role model for young celebrities, but maybe not quite the one she imagines.

Rather than the spiritual “big sister” or mother Madonna apparently believes she is, the former pop sensation may instead serve as a warning, that even a savvy street smart star can become caught up in a “cult.”

Let’s hope that despite rumored strains in their relationship since his second marriage that Sir Paul sits his daughter down soon for a frank discussion about the dangers of cult groups, before Stella is caught and starts sinking herself.