By Steve Patterson
St. Louis (KSDK) - A crowd gathered in north St. Louis became angry when the promise of a $500 gift voucher turned into what many are calling a rip off.
Instead of free cash, people were asked to join in the mass signup of high-rate, pre-paid debit cards.
Police were called to the 4000 block of West Florissant Avenue to break up an enraged crowd at Powerhouse Church. People who came were asked to turn in personal information at the church in exchange for a debit card.
Instead of a free $500, the cards can be loaded with the account-holder's own money. They also come with hefty $4.95 per month fee rates.
"What we're looking at, makes it very clear that you have to be very careful when people tell you things are free," said the Better Business Bureau's Christopher Thetford. "This isn't free. There are fees associated with this card."
Thetford says the St. Louis BBB has been looking into a number of "word-of-mouth" deals in the north St. Louis area, that are seemingly too good to be true.
We learned the company fronting the event is an Alabama-based LLC called Advanced Marketing and Promotions. NewsChannel 5 placed several calls to its principals: Tracy Gordon Cooper and Wallace G. Cooper. They have yet to return those calls.
Powerhouse Church Administrator Howard Walker denied involvement with the company at one point during our interview and then claimed he was hired to "help people and to give out debit cards and food vouchers, that's it."
"If people were promised that they were going to get a $500 voucher in addition to getting this $500 card that they paid for, then the person is not getting the benefit of the bargain and ethically," Thetford said. "No one should be telling them their going to get a voucher when they're not."