It's out with Owen and in with the new for Petro America Corporation, the sham oil company that federal investigators say swindled thousands of investors. Last week, founder Owen Hawkins resigned as CEO as a result of his indictment. But he's already named his replacement.
New CEO Greg Cornley is a member of the Ministers Alliance, a group of local ministers who own and support Petro stock -- because what Kansas City needs from its religious leaders in the Great Recession is really shitty stock advice.
Cornley made his first speech to shareholders on a conference call last week.
"My name is Greg Cornley Sr. I am the new CEO. I know some people thought that I was a joke or that I didn't exist, but I am here," he said.
He promised to move the company forward, though he said it would be impossible for him to say when the company would trade. (Never, say the feds with utter certainty.) But Cornley swore a vow of martyrdom to the masses: "I'll get it done or I'll die trying."
Cornley apparently thought that the promise of dedicating his life to Petro was fair trade for even more investors' money. Less than two minutes into his acceptance speech, right after he prayed for the Petro shareholder family, Cornley was asking for cash. He gave no explanation why Owen Hawkins, who has a public defender, required a legal defense fund. But he did give the address of where "all the money and funds that we can" should be sent: to Olathe attorney Carl Cornwell. (Cornwell could not be reached for comment.)
As a selling point, Cornley described Hawkins' time in federal custody as one filled with hardship. "Where they have him, they don't even have regular parking lots. We had to walk in mud and water and everything to get to him," Cornley lamented.
A woman named Gail Scott closed out the conference call.
"I just want to remind everybody that Mr. Hawkins may be physically imprisoned, but like Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, he said that in body he was in prison, but in mind and soul -- never. So he's here with us in mind and soul," she said. "His spirit certainly reeks throughout the shareholder community."
Hawkins' smelly spirit won't be saved until his legal defense fund collects $25,000, according to Scott. That might seem like a lot of money to investors who already donated their life's savings to a man who allegedly squandered them on cars and coats and Christmas gifts to strangers, but it's really not when you think about it, Scott said.
"You can do some math on your own and see how easy it is to do that with 12,000 shareholders."