• Independence man indicted in fraudulent investment scheme

  • An Independence man is one of eight who were indicted Wednesday in a $7.2 million investment fraud a day after two other defendants pleaded guilty in federal court.

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  • An Independence man is one of eight who were indicted Wednesday in a $7.2 million investment fraud a day after two other defendants pleaded guilty in federal court.
    The group allegedly conspired to defraud thousands of investors across the United States by selling shares in a company called Petro America Corp. Many in the group are ministers who sought out “investors” in churches.
    Those charged in a 20-count indictment are William Miller, 40, of Independence; Martin Roper, 45, of Kansas City, Kan.; Charles Hooker, 49, and Teresa Hill, 54, both of Kansas City, Mo.; Curtis White, 55, of Grandview, Mo.; Allen Collins, 54, of Raymore, Mo.; Russell Hopkins, 47, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Brian Langenbach, 42, of Globe, Ariz.
    The founder of Petro, Isreal Owen Hawkins, 55, of Kansas City, Kan., was charged with three others last November. The others charged then were Teresa Brown, 53, of Bandera, Texas; Johnny Heurung, 57, of St. Paul, Minn.; and Clarence Moore, 63, of Atlanta.
    Two others involved in the scheme pleaded guilty on Tuesday to their roles: the Rev. Edward D. Halliburton, 56, of Kansas City, Kan., and Joseph Harrell, 49, of Waco, Texas.
    They admitted they conspired with others to misrepresent Petro America stock and mislead investors. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City said as many as 12,000 people fell victim to the fraud. Two websites have been set up to collect information from victims and keep them updated about the case: www.postalinspectorsurvey.com/PetroAmerica, and www. justice.gov/usao/mow/divisions/petro.html.
    The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Halliburton and Harrell admitted that they each had received nearly $400,000 from the sale of Petro stock. Halliburton was president of the Ministers Alliance, a group of about 15 ministers, mostly from the Kansas City area, which promoted Petro.
    They met weekly and held regular investor conference calls and referred to themselves as the White Hat Guys because of the white fedoras they wore.
    The investors were told that Petro would soon go public and that it was worth $284 billion. Halliburton told buyers that the shares he was selling were his own shares, and he did not disclose that had had not paid for them but had been given them.
    Harrell admitted that he became aware that the company was a fraud but sold shares anyway.
    Halliburton and Harrell each could be sentenced to as much as five years in federal prison without parole, plus a $250,000 fine and an order of restitution.
    None of the defendants, who often pitched the scheme at churches, had been licensed to sell securities. Missouri and Kansas issued cease and desist orders in 2008, but the indictment alleges that Hawkins then gave billions of shares to the defendants, who agreed to continue selling them and return part of the proceeds to Hawkins and others.
    Page 2 of 2 - Almost no investor proceeds were reinvested into Petro, the indictment says. Instead the defendants spent the money on personal expenditures, including cars, jewelry and, in Halliburton’s case, a doctorate degree from Tabernacle Bible College.

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