Running on Fumes

You've got to have balls to sell BioPerformance's hot product--mothballs

In the awed silence, you can almost hear the mouths watering as 50 or so people in the audience stare at the screen. The numbers are staggering. BioPerformance, Inc. was founded not even five months ago in Irving, but in that short time, Scott Chandler, standing next to the screen grinning modestly, has made $887,760.52. That's practically a million dollars. This first week of May, Chandler has already raked in $56,754.

To the working-class Mexican crowd, gathered here for BioPerformance's "Super Spanish Saturday," this is what heaven looks like. One woman at the back of the anonymous hotel ballroom near DFW airport, a stack of just-purchased motivational DVDs in her lap, finally digests what she's seeing. "Dios mio!" she murmurs. "My God!"

But Chandler is uncomfortable. Normally, he doesn't have to flaunt his earnings; just telling his rags-to-riches story usually has the crowd eating out of his hand. Not today. Blame it on the language barrier: Chandler's deep piney-woods drawl can be hard for even native English speakers to follow, and there are few of those among the crowd at Super Spanish Saturday.

In the cramped lobby of BioPerformance's office, small 
lawn statues hold trays of the "top secret fuel pill." 
Supply problems left many distributors without any 
product to sell.
In the cramped lobby of BioPerformance's office, small lawn statues hold trays of the "top secret fuel pill." Supply problems left many distributors without any product to sell.
BioPerformance world headquarters occupies an 
executive suite in an Irving office building.
BioPerformance world headquarters occupies an executive suite in an Irving office building.

Otto Gonzalez, the event host, is an enthusiastic translator, but the necessity of alternating speakers and languages breaks up the normal flow of Chandler's patter right from the beginning, and his account of growing up poor in Alabama draws only polite applause. The two are in danger of losing their audience and need something to pump up the audience.

"What I'd like to do is introduce Steven"--Chandler starts to hand off to his protégé Steven Holland, but Gonzalez interrupts.

"Will you show us your deal first? I'll introduce Steven while you show it."

Chandler stalls for time, reluctant. "What should I show?"

"You know," Gonzalez urges, "your e-wallet deal!" He wants Chandler to put his Back Office accounting software up on the projection screen to show everybody just what kind of money can be made. An English speaker in the audience shouts out her agreement: "Yeah! Show it!"

Chandler acts like he has no choice but to go along. Smiling in good-natured defeat, he points at the video camera filming the presentation. "Turn the cameras off and we'll do it."

Chandler has good reason to be cautious. As Holland searches for the right page on a laptop computer, Chandler addresses the audience. "Steven and I always make a disclaimer," he says. "We don't guarantee that you're going to make any money with this company. This is not an enticement by any reason. We just want to show you that it's possible to make this kind of money, OK? So you guys have the same possibility." In Spanish, Gonzalez is even blunter: "The company doesn't guarantee that you're going to make any money with this program," he intones gravely, "nor does it guarantee that this product works."

The product in question is a little green pill called BioPerformance Fuel. Stick the pills into an automotive gas tank and they are supposed to yield vast improvements in mileage, performance and emissions. In the world of $3 gallons of gasoline, demand should be limitless.

So why is Chandler so cautious? The whole point of the meeting is to encourage people to follow in Chandler's footsteps, to climb the ladder at BioPerformance by bringing more and more people into the company's multilevel marketing scheme. Chandler will make money for every person that signs up. But while the numbers holding the audience members in thrall tell one story, statistics tell another: Virtually everybody that joins will wind up a financial loser.

So Chandler has to be extremely careful not to cross the fine line between encouraging and promising. Encouraging someone to give you money is legal--making false promises for financial gain is not. But unbeknownst to Chandler and everyone else at Super Spanish Saturday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott would soon decide that BioPerformance crossed that line a long time ago.


"I can remember the first time I used these pills back in December," Steven Holland tells the audience. "My wife said, 'Man, those pills stink! Get those things out of my house!'" He pauses, his glasses and slouching stance giving him the air of a college student. "But now she tells me they smell like money."

Her olfactory confusion is understandable: As of April 29, after fewer than five months of operation, BioPerformance announced an incredible $22,567,349 in sales. At the same time, nearly 50,000 people from all over the country had signed up to sell it, at a rate as high as 600 a day.

Self-proclaimed "church growth evangelist" Lowell Mims founded BioPerformance with his Irving neighbor Gus Romero with the stated goal of "creating 1,000 millionaires," but even he probably didn't envision such explosive growth. Mims brought his longtime friend Chandler in as part of the first sales team, and Chandler quickly rose to the rank of International Sales Manager. Titles in BioPerformance aren't job descriptions; instead, they're indicators of how many people the bearer has recruited as "downlines"--in Chandler's case, more than 18,000. Holland is one of Chandler's most successful downlines, a Senior Vice President and a top earner in the company. Holland says he's already more than doubled the $150,000 annual salary he had at his old job.

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