Russell Hopkins of Northport, Alabama was sentenced in federal court to four years and three months in prison without parole for his participation in a $10.2 million securities fraud and wire fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes also ordered Hopkins to pay $673,465 in restitution to his victims.
The scheme allegedly bilked thousands of investors in both the United States and Canada who purchased shares in Petro America Corporation, which was represented to be a profitable company with $284 billion in assets.
Over 12,000 people invested more than $10.2 million in Petro America. Despite the representations made to the potential investors, Petro America had no oil or realistic prospects for obtaining, moving, or storing large amounts of oil. The company had no significant assets, no revenue, and no employees other than its CEO.
Hopkins solicited Petro America securities despite not being licensed to sell securities and multiple cease and desist orders. Hopkins and other conspirators used religious language in their pitches and often recruited through churches. They sold Petro America stock by making innumerable false misrepresentations and omissions to investors. For example, conspirators falsely claimed that Petro America was worth $284 billion and Petro America stock was worth $24 per share in order to induce people to invest. These numbers were unfounded.