KANSAS CITY, Mo. (11/3/10)--A Kansas City man was charged in federal court Oct. 27 for his role in a $7.2 million securities fraud scheme that victimized thousands of U.S. investors nationwide. Isreal Owen Hawkins was charged in a two-count criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., according to the U.S. Department of Justices’ Attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri (US Fed News Oct. 28). “A federal criminal complaint alleges that Petro America was an empty facade of a business run by deception and false promises,” Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in press release. “Petro’s founder is charged with defrauding unwary investors by selling them worthless stock in order to support his lavish lifestyle.” Hawkins is the president/CEO of Petro America Corp. A related civil forfeiture was filed against Petro America Oct. 22. The criminal complaint charges Hawkins with securities fraud and with structuring financial transactions to evade federal reporting requirements. Hawkins founded Petro America, which bills itself as a holding company for crude oil and gold mines--among other claimed assets--in 2007, said US Fed News. According to the affidavit, Hawkins and an unidentified co-conspirator visited Mazuma CU in Kansas City, Kan., several times each week. Sometimes they made large deposits of multiple checks into the company’s bank account. On most visits, they withdrew $7,500 to $9,800--often on consecutive days. In this manner, Hawkins obtained at least $537,515 in cash from Petro’s account at Mazuma. The affidavit also alleges that Hawkins structured currency withdrawals out of Petro America accounts at Bank of America and U.S. Bank.