NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Three Connecticut women have pleaded not guilty to charges that they were involved in a “gifting table” pyramid scheme.

To join a gifting table, new participants must pay a $5,000 gift to the person occupying the “dessert” position at the top of the pyramid. Participants move through the pyramid from the bottom row, called “appetizers,” to the top by recruiting additional women to join.

Prosecutors said 55-year-old Donna Bello and 64-year-old Jill Platt, both of Guilford, and 66-year-old Bettejane Hopkins of Essex were indicted on charges including wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

They pleaded not guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hartford and were released on bond.

Prosecutors said the losses to the victims were over $1 million.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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