(Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday sued three defendants it accused of running a fraud and Ponzi scheme in which they raised more than $62 million from investors eager to benefit from growth in the North Dakota oil industry.
According to the SEC, North Dakota Developments LLC and its owners, Robert Gavin and Daniel Hogan, illegally raised money from hundreds of investors since May 2012 by selling stakes in four short-term housing projects, known as “man camps,” for workers in the Bakken oil field region of North Dakota and Montana.
The SEC said investors were promised returns of up to 42 percent in the first year, or a “guaranteed” or “assured” annual return of up to 25 percent, though the defendants knew the first project was significantly delayed and faced low occupancy rates, while the other projects were delayed or had not yet been begun.
It also said the defendants paid investors in the first project, Watford West in Arnegard, North Dakota, with money from investors in later projects, and misappropriated more than $25 million to cover hidden broker commissions, payments to Gavin and Hogan, and investment in other Bakken projects.
The SEC civil lawsuit filed in a North Dakota federal court seeks to recoup ill-gotten gains, impose fines and obtain an injunction against further violations.
North Dakota Developments did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the Williston, North Dakota-based company and Gavin did not immediately respond to similar requests. A lawyer for Hogan could not immediately be located.
The complaint said North Dakota Developments raised money from investors in more than one dozen U.S. states, and in countries including Australia, France, Great Britain and Spain.
The case is SEC v North Dakota Developments LLC et al, U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota, No. 15-00053.