MMM, or Mavrodi's Money Machine, is a fraud company founded by Sergei Mavrodi, his brother Vyacheslav Mavrodi, and Olga Melnikova. With its start in 1989 Sergei tried to do legit business, but was chased down for tax evasion by 1992. By 1994, Sergei had gone into financial market and with the Russian economy in hyperinflation he was promising profit of 1000% percent a year with a full-on TV campaign as well as a "free metro ride day" where they paid for EVERYBODY's metro ride for a day in Moscow.
In 1993 and 1994 it was estimated that MMM was taking in 100 BILLION rubles PER DAY for its shares. Party finally ended in Mid 1994 when tax police closed MMM for tax evasion. However, Mavrodi was able to manipulate the victims into voting him into Russian Dumas (house of representatives) by claiming government closed MMM, not him, and if they do that he'll pass measures to pay them back. Elected official was also immune from arrest. Mavrodi's run came to and end when the Dumas chose to cancel his immunity in 1995, and MMM finally declared bankruptcy in 1997.
However, Mavrodi went on to start several more scams, including "Stock Generation" (closed 2002, Mavrodi arrested and convicted 2007), MMM2011, MMM-India, and MMM-Global.
The interesting parts about MMM2011 and the last few schemes is its.... "honesty", so to speak. MMM2011 was described as...
"This is a pyramid. It is a naked scheme, nothing more ... People interact with each other and give each other money. For no reason!" (source)Which brings us to the "honest Ponzi"... Is it a Ponzi scheme if the owners admits to it?
Of course it is. Does a weasel stop being a weasel by admitting it is a weasel?
Yet that's what many scammers want you to believe... that as long as they paper over any irregularities with enough disclaimers... they can't be "liable".