Photo Credit: Tiziano Caviglia
Nigerian Citizen and Texas Resident, Samuel LeMaire, was recently sued by the SEC for alleged religious affinity fraud against elderly investors.
The lawsuit filed June 7, 2010 by the SEC claims LeMaire presented himself as a “man of God” who intended to start a charitable foundation to help needy Nigerian children to investors by proposing to fund the foundation and return investor money with profits earned from the sale of “tanker-loads” of oil from Nigeria. Since 2007 it had been claimed that LeMaire has raised at least $2.3 million and possibly as much as $3.6 million using his religious front. However bank records show LeMaire used at least $971,825 on his bank card of the money for personal purchases including clothes, jewelry, high end restaurants, travel and entertainment, and at least $1.13 million was taken out in cash and no records of any oil-related transaction appear.
Between 2007 and the present, LeMaire transferred, or directed the transfer of, over $503,000 to Nigeria through Western Union or MoneyGram. Although some of these transfers may have come from cash withdrawals from known bank accounts, some of the transfers used new investor funds that were never deposited into one of LeMaire’s accounts. None of these transfers was in an amount greater than $9,000, and were sent to over 60 recipients. LeMaire also wired $140,000 to two companies in Florida that were controlled by an individual who subsequently pleaded guilty to money laundering in U.S . v Roda Abul Taher, a/k/a Fateh Ikram Sakkal….This individual stated that he did not know LeMaire but received instructions by telephone from Nigeria telling him when these deposits were coming and instructing him to forward the funds to bank accounts in China. Nothing about the transfers appears to be related to the purchase or sale of Nigerian oil.
To date not one of the investors have received any profits. After claiming that LeMaire once worked for the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) it was easy for investors to trust his word on the process when not one of the investors claimed to have any sound knowledge about the oil industry. After contributing their investments, LeMaire sent a two-paged document called “Investment Return Pay Order” that, “disclosed littler more than the amount invested and the promised amount of return (an average guarantee of a three to 1 return) with a reference to crude oil.”
Allegedly, over the span of the past two years LeMaire promised “investors” that the deal had been completed, or was near completion and they would see their money soon. Claiming millions waited in overseas bank accounts he then told one investor he needed $90,000 to pay “excise taxes” in order to get to money stateside and that they would receive their money in 45 days after the taxes had been paid.
Unfortunately, most of the Petrogas investors have depleted their savings and retirement funds, and not only can no longer afford to invest with LeMaire, but many can no longer afford to pay rent, purchase needed medicines, make mortgage payments, or fix their air conditioners.
Also included in the lawsuit is Petrogas Overseas Trading, a limited partnership founded in 2005 by LeMaire himself and PetroEnergy, Inc as a relief defendant, the sole partner of Petrogas whith LeMaire as the sole director of the company. It has been claimed that since January 2007 the company received deposits of $2,022,544 with no business transactions made.