Jan. 28, 2008                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      Fines of up to $5,000 per violation could be imposed
      Montana State Auditor John Morrison has issued a Temporary Cease and Desist Order this week against three individuals and three corporations connected to an investment scheme widely known as Caruba International, based out of the Caribbean nation of Aruba.
      The Temporary Cease and Desist Order halts any activities that may violate Montana’s Securities Act by Caruba International Business Corporation and five other Respondents; Tradewinds Holding Company, Just Foundation and individuals Linda Ripka, Gary Nelson, Ivan Shew-A-Tjon. Two Montana citizens complained to Morrison’s Securities Department about investments they made with the named Respondents that resulted in losses of over $50,000.
      "Helping Montanans protect their hard-earned savings is a job I take seriously," said Morrison. “We are committed to rooting out investment fraud and will vigorously pursue enforcement cases where fraud has occurred.”
      The Department’s investigation of Caruba’s website, www.carubapartners.com, indicates “Caruba International is an education-based corporation that assists individuals and enterprises throughout the world by providing them with the education and information necessary to better manage their assets and financial growth.” However, marketing materials provided by Ripka indicates Caruba markets itself as a multi-level marketing company.
      The Department alleges Ripka, formerly a Minnesota licensed insurance producer and securities salesperson, contacted and convinced at least two Montana residents to invest in Caruba International in investments variously identified with Tradewinds Holding Company. Ripka then allegedly offered additional investments in the Just Foundation to at least one Montana investor. It appears these investments, while claiming to offer high rates of return, instead resulted in a complete loss of principal. The Department alleges the companies, individuals and investment opportunities were fraudulent and not registered in Montana.
      Montana citizens should be on alert for solicitations from Caruba International LLC of Plantation Florida, or Tradewinds Holding Co. from Aruba. This potential ‘investment opportunity’ is not registered for sale in the state of Montana nor are the sales agents registered in the state of Montana, which is a violation of Montana securities law.
      Before making any investment, Morrison urges investors to ask the following questions: Are the seller and investment properly licensed and registered? Has the seller given you written information that fully explains the investment? Are claims made for the investment realistic? Does the investment meet your personal investment goals?
      Morrison also urged investors to contact his office with any questions about an investment product, broker or adviser, before making an investment. “One phone call can save a lot of money and heartache,” he said.
      To inquire about the legitimacy of an investment opportunity, call the State Auditor’s office toll free at 1-800-332-6148 or visit www.sao.mt.gov.