Thursday, October 11, 2012

SEC Charges Repeat Violator in South Florida with Fraudulently Offering Investments Tied to Oil Drilling Projects

By Mark Astarita

The SEC announced that it has obtained an emergency court order to freeze the assets of a South Florida man who has been charged with fraudulently offering investments in oil drilling projects.

The SEC’s complaint in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla., alleges that Joseph Hilton made numerous misrepresentations to investors while selling limited partnership units in two oil drilling projects earlier this year through his firm Pacific Northwestern Energy LLC. According to the court filing,  Hilton falsely told potential investors that Pacific acquired its wells from Exxon Mobil Corp., and he overstated Pacific’s experience in the oil and gas industry and the historical accomplishments of its drillers. Hilton raised approximately $789,000 from investors. 

The SEC’s action froze the assets of Hilton, Pacific, and the two limited partnerships — Rock Castle Drilling Fund LP and Rock Castle Drilling Fund II LP. The SEC alleges that Hilton’s securities offerings were not registered with the SEC as required under the federal securities laws.

The SEC’s complaint also includes allegations against Hilton, Pacific, and another company controlled by Hilton called New Horizon Publishing Inc. Through Pacific and New Horizon, Hilton additionally sold $2.5 million worth of investments in oil drilling projects sponsored by United States Energy Corp. while deceiving investors about his identity, the anticipated returns on the investments, the amount of oil being produced by U.S. Energy’s wells, and the existence of natural gas wells. Hilton also operated a boiler room of sales representatives paid on a commission basis.

There are more details at the SEC's web site and its press release.
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