Thanks to the classic fairy tale, we all know to be wary of trading our cows for magic beans. But apparently no one got the warning about “magic cheese.” A French woman allegedly scammed thousands of South Americans by convincing them they could sell this highly sought after beauty product, fleecing victims in Chile out of over $16 million.
According to the Guardian, Gilverte Van Erpe is finally facing trail in France where she was arrested back in 2008. She’s wanted by Chilean authorities who claim that, from 2005 to 2006, she led a pyramid scheme that enlisted about 5,500 Chileans to home produce “magic cheese,” selling what is described as “a kit containing filters and a special powder, which when mixed with milk and fermented, produced a sort of cheese they were told was highly sought after by the cosmetics industry.” She allegedly organized huge conferences where she told victims the concoction, which turns out to be completely worthless, was sought after by companies like L’Oreal and used by celebrities such as Michael Jackson.
Reportedly, victims had to buy their own kits to make the cheese, which they were then told would be exported and sold. However, Chilean officials later found the product simply rotting in a warehouse. Meanwhile, many of those the scam had targeted found themselves deep in debt, investing large sums of money into their operations, with some people even quitting their jobs to make magic cheese fulltime.
Van Erpe is being tried in France after extradition to Chile failed. She’s probably happy to stay out of South America: According to Yahoo, she had used the same scam to trick thousands of people in Peru just a few years earlier.
The moral: Though the French have perfected a seemingly endless varieties of cheese, “magic” is still not one of them.