U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 20237 / August 10, 2007
SEC v. Earthly Mineral Solutions, Inc., Natural Minerals Processing Company, Roy D. Higgs, Frank L. Schwartz, and Rick Lawton, Civil Action No. 2:07-CV-01057 (D. Nev.)
SEC Files Charges Against Ponzi Scheme Operators in $20 Million Mining Claim Securities Fraud
On August 9, 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against two Nevada companies and their officers for perpetrating a $20 million Ponzi scheme involving mining claim interests. The Commission filed charges against Earthly Mineral Solutions, Inc. ("EMS"), Natural Minerals Processing Company ("NMPC"), both based in Henderson, Nevada, and their three principal officers, Roy D. Higgs, age 65 of Henderson, Nevada, Frank L. Schwartz, age 43 of Henderson, Nevada, and Rick Lawton, age 60 of Reno, Nevada, (collectively, "the defendants").
Also on August 9, 2007, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri filed criminal charges against EMS, Higgs, and Schwartz for conduct alleged in the Commission's complaint.
The Commission's complaint alleges that between 2003 and 2006, the defendants offered and sold investors mining claims interests based on false and misleading information. As alleged in the complaint, the defendants claimed that investors' funds would be used to expand EMS' and NMPC's mineral processing and fertilizer production businesses. The defendants guaranteed investors a 7% to 9% annual return their on investment, which was to be paid out of the operating revenue from the mining and fertilizer businesses. In reality, the defendants were running a Ponzi scheme; neither EMS nor NMPC operated a functioning mining or fertilizer business, and the returns promised to investors were paid using the investments of new investors. The complaint further alleges that the defendants' scheme raised approximately $20 million from over 100 investors nationwide, many of whom had been saving for retirement and liquidated their personal Individual Retirement Accounts ("IRAs") to invest in the mining claims.
The Commission charged EMS, Higgs, Schwartz, and Lawton with violating the registration provisions of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933 ("Securities Act"). In addition, the Commission charged EMS, NMPC, Higgs, Schwartz, and Lawton with violating the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act") and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The Commission also charged Higgs, Schwartz, and Lawton with violating the broker-dealer registration provision of Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act. The Commission seeks a permanent injunction, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against all of the defendants.
The Commission acknowledges the valuable assistance the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in bringing this case.