MORRISON ANNOUNCES A WIN IN CASE AGAINST FRAUDULENT ENERGY OPERATION
Through efforts of the SEC, nearly all investment dollars to be returned to Montanans
Montana State Auditor John Morrison today announced that his office has won a securities fraud case against a group operating an energy scam in the state. An administrative hearing examiner has ruled in favor of Montana’s Securities Department in its case against a consortium of companies and individuals holding themselves out as coal miners and/or promoters of the coal mining companies, including TriEnergy, Inc., H & J Energy, Inc., Marina Investors Group, Robert Jennings, Arthur Simburg, Lowell Decker, Thomas Avery, Henry Jones and Debbie Loveless.
"The sale of fraudulent energy investments is a recurring problem that gets worse when energy prices are high," said Morrison. “The surge in energy prices has created a heightened interest in investment in energy-related business ventures. Whenever economic circumstances create an opportunity for money to be made legitimately, scamsters follow in the shadows to take advantage of the situation.”
The Department alleged TriEnergy, H & J Energy and Marina Investors acted as unregistered investment programs seeking investors to fund an alleged coal mining operation, offering extremely high returns on the investments. The individuals named by the Department took specific actions to promote, offer and sell the investment opportunities in the companies. Some of the investments offered involved a vague reference to a Middle Eastern “gold investment” apparently created and promoted by Marina and Jones. None of the named respondents was properly licensed or registered with the Montana Securities Department. All of the named respondents relied on fraudulent practices, including material omissions and misrepresentations, to offer and sell the investments.
Nine Montana investors invested approximately $257,000 in these fraudulent securities. A federal case initiated by the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained funds to repay most of the investment dollars. “The sanction won by the State Auditor’s Office, together with the investment recovery by the SEC, add up to a great result. I commend the fine work of the SEC to investigate and prosecute this case,” said Morrison. “Because these fraudulent promoters were operating across state lines, the participation of agencies at the federal level was essential to break up this investment scheme and get people’s money back.”
In his order, Hearing Examiner Michael Rieley found the respondents were not properly registered or licensed in Montana and they used fraudulent practices to induce Montanans to invest with the companies and individuals. Mr. Rieley issued a permanent cease and desist order against each of the respondents except Decker and Loveless. Decker and Loveless entered into settlement agreements with the Department earlier this year, where they each accepted a permanent ban from the securities industry.
“Anyone solicited to invest in oil and gas, coal or other energy investment offers should call the Securities Department of the Montana State Auditor’s Office to ensure that the offering is registered and that the salesperson is licensed,” said Morrison. “Scam artists usually tell prospective victims that they are licensed and their investment is registered — and they can be quite convincing. But unless you can afford to lose your money, don’t take them at their word; find out for sure.”
The Securities Division of the State Auditor’s Office can be reached toll-free at 1-800-332-6148 or in Helena at 444-2040.