Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing, the Lexington-based network marketing group, has agreed to pay nearly $1 million to Montana to settle allegations that the company was operating an illegal pyramid scheme there.

Last month, Montana Commissioner of Securities Monica Lindeen ordered the company to stop operations in the state after the agency received a series of complaints, including that Fortune promised huge rewards that never came through for the $299 membership fee.

Last week, Lindeen and Fortune agreed to a settlement, which includes $840,000 to 3,400 Montana participants, an average of $247 a person, and a $100,000 fine paid by chief executive and founder Paul Orberson and vice president Thomas Mills. Dianne Graber, a Montana representative of Fortune, will pay a $5,000 fine to the general fund.

The settlement also includes a $50,000 contribution to the Investor Protection Trust, a non-profit organization that provides investor education in Montana. In the future, anyone wanting to join Fortune will pay a fee of $75, and receive a brochure that discloses the average income of representatives and how long it takes to achieve that income.

“This agreement sends a clear message to businesses operating illegally in Montana that I am committed to protecting consumers,” Lindeen said. “Montanans work hard to support their families, and I will not tolerate the sale of false promises to them.”

Photo by Visions of Domino