Diamond scam involving Canadian raked in $64M, SEC says
A Saskatchewan businessman is among 11 people facing legal action in the United States for an allegedly fraudulent stock scheme involving hundreds of billions of shares and 40,000 investors.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint in a Nevada court Monday against Urban Casavant, 51, formerly of Prince Albert, Sask. Ten other people and three companies were also named in the action.
They're accused of illegally issuing and selling 622 billion shares of CMKM Diamonds Inc., which operated in Las Vegas.
Documents filed with the court allege shares of CMKM that were issued between January 2003 and May 2004 generated at least $64.2 million in profit, "much of which was paid to Casavant to support his extravagant lifestyle."
The SEC claim alleges Casavant, the former CEO and chairman of the board of CMKM, used the money for various purposes, including paying gambling debts, investing in real estate and "generating more shareholder interest."
Casavant made a name for himself in Saskatchewan earlier in the decade as a promoter of various diamond ventures in the Prince Albert area. He was living in Las Vegas during the period the SEC is investigating.
Casavant generated "shareholder interest," the SEC alleges, by using false press releases, internet chat boards and funny car race events around the U.S.
One CMKM press release said the company was promoting its own diamond brand at a time when it had not found a single diamond.
What CMKM did have was "largely untested mineral claims in Saskatchewan," the SEC says.
Another press release issued in 2004 announced the discovery of kimberlite ore — the ore in which diamonds are usually found — even though the ore had actually been discovered in 1996.
Perhaps Casavant's most effective tool, the SEC said, was "CMKXtreme," a team of motorbike, truck and funny car racers. CMKM logos were plastered on the race cars as well as on trucks, banners, billboards, and crew-member shirts.
"Hundreds of CMKM shareholders attended the races and visited the CMKM-sponsored tent, where they could study a map of CMKM's alleged mineral claims, watch a video loop of CMKM's purported drilling work and meet and greet Casavant and his family," the document filed in court says.
According the SEC, CMKM had no meaningful operations other than issuing and promoting its own stock. Over 20 months, the company's stock price fluctuated from 1/100th of a cent to 1/10th of a cent. About 40,000 people bought shares without knowing Casavant ran the company from his Las Vegas home, the documents say.
The SEC said Casavant currently lives in Canada, but did not say where.
In October 2003, the Saskatchewan Financial Services Commission issued a cease-and-desist order to Casavant in connection with CMKM.
Casavant resigned all of his positions in CMKM about a year ago.
The SEC is seeking penalties and a permanent injunction against the defendants to prevent them from being officers in U.S. companies.