Federal prosecutors have accused a local man of committing $7.2 million in securities fraud, Mark Davis reports. So far, Petro America CEO Owen Hawkins is the only person facing charges, though U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips said others might be prosecuted. The affidavit from an IRS agent who investigated the case lays everything out.
Since 2008, investors have pumped over $5 million into the company. But federal agents have discovered that only a small fraction was actually invested in Petro America.
Instead, Hawkins and his associates withdrew the money in cash and spent it on houses, luxury cars, a $5700 fur coat, a $37,000 boat, a $5200 piece of Louis Vuitton luggage, expensive jewelry, and travel.
Petro America is the cover story in the Pitch this week. A lot of the people who invested in Petro America are blue-collar or middle-class, the paper says, and some of them were encouraged by their pastors to do so.