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As Hawkins peddled a path to easy wealth, investigators sensed a scam. The securities Roper and Hawkins were selling weren't registered, the Secretary of State reported, nor were Roper and Hawkins licensed to sell them. There were other violations, too: The investment's risks werent covered; the basis for the $2 share price wasnt provided; and the history, background and financial condition of the company weren't revealed.
The backgrounds of Hawkins and Roper also werent shared, although that's not surprising. Considering Hawkins string of failed businesses and Ropers 1996 forcible-rape conviction, Gods benediction would have been harder to believe if served alongside the truth about the men's pasts.
Late in 2008, the Secretary of State's office issued the cease-and-desist order, barring Petro, Hawkins, Roper and their agents plus anyone else with knowledge of the cease-and-desist order to stop selling shares in the company. Hawkins scheduled a meeting with the state but later canceled, Egerdal, of the Secretary of State's office, says. Owen Hawkins and Petro America did have an opportunity to tell their side of the story, she says, and they chose not to do that.
In 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission temporarily suspended the trading of Petro stock, questioning the accuracy of Petros asset claims and warning prospective traders about the stock. Kansas followed suit in April this year, banning the selling of Petro shares but not before it identified 248 Kansans who'd dumped money into the company, to go with hundreds, if not thousands, more in Missouri and around the country. According to the affidavit, in only its first four months of selling stock from August through November of 2008 Petro raised about $1 million.
Much of that money went directly into Hawkins' pocket. The company's only employee, he paid himself $595,000 a year, drawn, according to the affidavit, in random amounts of cash whenever he felt like it. Meanwhile, he used the company's money to live a life ripped from the Robb Report. In an interview with investigators this summer, Hawkins admitted using investors' money to buy a Chrysler 300, a Hummer H3 and a Mercedes-Benz S430, and to rent a lakeside house in KCK. Earlier this year, he paid $5,700 for a lynx coat with fox trim.
Owen Hawkins has very clearly committed fraud, Egerdal says. And ultimately hes going to have to answer to that.
Early on a Monday evening, Martin Roper pulls his black Hummer into a quiet Dennys parking lot off I-70. The car is garnished with massive silver rims an upgrade from his 1997 Pontiac, the only other car listed in his sex-offender registry.
Two identical Mercedes-Benzes pull into the restaurants lot around the same time. The drivers are dressed immaculately and identically. Each wears a tailored jet-black suit, a black vest, a tie and a white straw fedora with red feathers poking from a black hatband. From their gold rings and watches to the white kerchiefs peeking out of their breast pockets, every sartorial detail is synchronized.
The men are part of something called the Ministers Alliance, a group of local clergy known by some Petro investors as Hawkins' Henchmen. According to one Kansas City pastor, who used to host meetings for the Alliance at his East Side church, it was formed to try to be a support to our community and to the city.
But Hawkins wanted the Ministers Alliance to support him, the pastor says. He wanted to make him [Petro] look good. When the Alliance took up the Petro cause, the pastor says he backed out.