Kansas City, MO – One of the more bothersome Ponzi schemes located in our area has been shut down, and hopefully for good. Petro America owner Israel Owen Hawkins was federally charged with securities fraud and aggravated currency structuring.
We first heard about Petro America in late 2008 and recognized it as a Ponzi scheme. Owen Hawkins solicited churchgoers and prayed on their faith as a way of making money. He claimed that Petro America was an upcoming oil company about to go public (for over 2 years) and investments in it would garner strong returns. In actuality, there was no oil company. There was no oil. It was just smoke and mirrors. The Missouri Secretary of State issued a Cease and Desist order against Owen Hawkins, Martin Roper and Petro America also in late 2008. The problems mostly stopped in Missouri, but people outside the state were still being ripped off. Hawkins continued to rake in money, paying himself a $595,000 salary plus a $175,000 bonus. The Better Business Bureau published a reliability report on the company with an F rating.
Callers occasionally asked about Petro America and were informed of the risks of investing in this type of business. Apparently, the authorities had enough and filed a federal criminal complaint against them. Last Wednesday, Hawkins appeared in court to hear the charges against him and will have a preliminary hearing once he hires an attorney.
Click here for more on the story from the Associated Press.