What Are Gifting Tables? Inside The Pyramid Scheme In HBO’s ‘Murder On Middle Beach’

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Barbara Hamburg
Entertainment And News

HBO’s latest true crime docuseries, Murder on Middle Beach, premiered on the streaming platform on Nov. 15.

The four-part docuseries explores the cold case murder of Barbara Hamburg, a mother of two who was found brutally stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her own yard in broad daylight in 2010. The case went cold in 2013.

Episode 1 of Murder on the Beach takes a look at some of the possible suspects in Hamburg’s case — mainly her ex-husband and the father of the documentary’s producer, Madison Hamburg.

However, at the end of the episode, “Gifting Tables” are mentioned, and some people believe they played a role in Barbara Hamburg’s murder.

What are Gifting Tables?

Gifting Tables are part of an illegal pyramid scheme that was popular in the mid-to-late-2000s. 

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In order to be a part of Gifting Tables, you had to be invited, and the group only allowed women into it.

Here’s where it gets sketchy: once you were recruited to join the group, you were required to bring a “gift” of $5000.

As you recruited more people, you’d move up within the four tiers of the group — recruits started as “Appetizers,” then moved up to “Soups and Salad,” then “Entrees,” then “Dessert.”

Once you reached the “Dessert” level and successfully recruited eight new members, you collected all the gifts from the other levels, meaning you’d make $40,000 in total.

Was Barbara Hamburg part of the Gifting Tables pyramid scheme?

Barbara Hamburg was in fact, part of Gifting Tables.

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Her sister, Jill Platt, who is featured in the first episode of Murder on Middle Beach, was the one who got her into it. 

Platt and another Gifting Table leader, Donna Bello, were “convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS, multiple counts of wire fraud, and filing false tax returns” after a four-week trial in Hartford, CT.

In 2013, Platt was sentenced to 54 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Bello had a slightly harsher sentence and was ordered to serve 72 months in prison with three years of supervised release.

“These significant sentences are appropriate for two individuals who profited from an illegal pyramid scheme and conspired to conceal their income from the IRS,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daly said at the time. 

“The investigation into this and other Gifting Tables schemes in Connecticut is ongoing.  Hopefully, this successful prosecution and the prison terms imposed today will serve as a strong deterrent and end this criminal activity.”

Was Barbara Hamburg murdered because of her involvement in Gifting Tables?

According to some witnesses who testified in front of a grand jury, some people believe that Gifting Tables played a role in Hamburg’s murder.

In 2013, a reporter covering the trial of Bello and Platt wrote that “some witnesses testified to a grand jury that they believe [that Madison resident Barbara Hamburg's] murder was connected to Hamburg's membership in the tables group."

Some Reddit users have similar theories about Gifting Tables and Barbara Hamburg’s murder.

“I grew up there too! I remember my parents mentioning they heard a lot of talk about the pyramid scheme in the show shortly before the woman was murdered,” one user wrote.

Another said, “The dad is extremely suspicious and very cold toward the whole thing but I'm curious about the pyramid scheme theory. It seems like someone killed her because she owed them money or they owed her money which leaves both ideas as possibilities. I feel so awful for her children.”

You can now stream part 1 of Murder on Middle Beach on HBO.

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Olivia Jakiel is an editor and writer who covers celebrity and entertainment news. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her zingers on Twitter