The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission demonstrated that last week, announcing charges against two Texans who allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme involving supposed investments in oil and gas projects.
According to the SEC, Robert A. Helms and Janniece S. Kaelin, who work out of Austin, Texas, misled investors about their experience in the oil and gas business while raising nearly $18 million they claimed would go toward purchasing oil and gas royalty interests.
The court also charged Deven Sellers of Arvada, Colorado and Roland Barrera of Costa Mesa, California with illegally selling investments without being registered with the SEC. Sellers and Barrera also allegedly misled investors about the sales commissions and referral fees they were receiving.
At the SEC’s request, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an order temporarily restraining the defendants from further violating federal securities laws, freezing their assets, prohibiting them from destroying documents and requiring them to provide accounting and authorizing expedited discovery.
Although they represented to investors that nearly all the money would be used to make oil and gas investments, Helms and Kaelin allegedly used just a fraction for that purpose. They reportedly used most of the investments to make Ponzi payments and cover personal and business expenses.