Of all the scam artists in all the towns in all the world, you've got to admire the tenacity of Kansas City's own Owen Hawkins.
Hawkins is the founder and CEO of Petro America Corporation, a purported oil company that federal investigators say stole more than $5 million from thousands of investors, many of them in Kansas City's already broke inner city. (Read Petro's full story here.)
After bilking Petro's shareholders out of millions, it didn't appear
Hawkins could have any less respect for shareholders' money. But indeed
he did. Many of Petro's shareholders pitched in and posted bond for
Hawkins when he was arrested by the feds last month. And in a flagrant
violation of bond conditions -- he was instructed to avoid all contact
with potential victims of his fraud -- Hawkins conducted a company-wide
conference call just last night.
In it, he delivered shocking news: He stepped down as CEO. He wouldn't reveal the identity of his successor, relying on a familiar tactic he uses to keep investors in the dark about their company: "We don't want to interfere with him or slow him down, because we want to get the job done," Hawkins said.
Hawkins gave no reason for his abdication, and spent the rest of the call blaming "government interference" for Petro's powerlessness. (It couldn't possibly be because the company had no actual assets.) He sprinkled comparisons of himself with history's greats throughout his soliloquy: "When they tried to stop Dr. Martin Luther King, all they did was make the civil rights movement stronger," he said.
Hawkins tried to scare shareholders away from the U.S. Attorney's web site established to help the victims of the fraud. He described it as a conspiracy to "beat up and terrorize our shareholders":
We want you to realize that a lot of shareholders have made sacrifices for Petro America to help this company move forward. And we want you to also understand as shareholders that the federal government wants to attack those people. They want to indict those people. They want to put stuff out there on the Internet to write them and try to identify who are shareholders are so they can turn on them. This is wrong. And we're not going to stand for it.But wait! Hawkins is riding his tide of crazy all the way to the shore. "You are a part of something great and I want you to know that. And that is why we've come under so much attack--because this is such a great movement," he reminds everyone, hoping nobody read the damning 80-page affidavit that calls Petro a scam.
If this is the long, hard process that it takes to achieve that Nobel Peace Prize, I'm willing to do that. I want you to know I'm not a quitter. I'm a fighter, and I fight for you and will continue to fight for you as a shareholder.Stay tuned for either the awards ceremony or the conviction, whichever comes first.