Backed by local ministers, Petro America promised investors millions -- but it's the CEO who got rich 

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On a Thursday in early October, the weekly conference call doesn’t feature any of the usual guest speakers or sales pitches. It’s just Owen Hawkins and the silenced mass of dialers-in.

He starts by thanking those shareholders “who are working behind the scenes, like Allen Collins and Pastor Halliburton.” Hawkins pauses, then begins his speech: “I want you to know I’m very committed to this. I stand in the fire every day. I’m attacked personally from all phases: regulatory agencies, disgruntled people. I’m always constantly under attack.”

That, at least, is true. In May, the Missouri Secretary of State's office issued a final cease-and-desist order and imposed fines against Hawkins, Petro and Roper. Combined, Hawkins and Petro owe $37,000. Five months later, Egerdal says, “Petro and Owen Hawkins have not paid anything.” (Roper has paid $1,500, only part of what he owed.) Last month, the Secretary of State filed a lawsuit against Hawkins, Roper and Petro, trying to collect the money, and the U.S. Attorney's Office continues to investigate Hawkins, Brown and others involved with Petro.

But on his telephonic pulpit, Owen Hawkins plays the martyr.

“I want you to know, no matter what they do to me, what they try to do to me or what they say about me, I want you know that I’m committed to getting this done,” he says. “I will stand in the fire for you because I know you are worth it. And I’m here to share this vision with you. And I was born for this.”

The call is much shorter than last week’s, and it soon comes to a close. “We know we have our time, and God has his time,” Hawkins says. “But I can rest assured that Petro America’s time has come.”

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