Federal charges of securities fraud and aggravated currency structuring were announced Wednesday against 55-year-old Isreal Owen Hawkins of Kansas City, Kan.
Prosecutors say Hawkins got more than 8,000 people to invest in his company, Petro America Corp., which he claimed was worth more than $284 billion.
Most of its listed assets consisted of untapped gold mines and a several subsidiaries. Investigators say Petro’s interests in gold and rock mines were essentially worthless.
The indictment alleges that company insiders used investors’ money to finance houses, cars, fur coats and luxury vacations. Hawkins was scheduled to appear Wednesday in U.S. District Court.