SEC Charges Two Kentucky Men in Oil-And-Gas Offering Fraud

Litigation Release No. 24254 / August 31, 2018

SEC v. Scott Stacy Phelps and James Michael Harper, United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky (Bowling Green), Case No. 1:18-cv-122

On August 30, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged two Bowling Green, Kentucky-area men with defrauding investors in oil-and-gas securities offerings.

The SEC's complaint, filed in federal court in Bowling Green, Kentucky, alleges that Scott Stacy Phelps and James Michael Harper raised approximately $611,000 by selling securities to nine investors between February 2015 and March 2016. Although they told prospective investors that the investment proceeds would be used to drill for oil in Kentucky, the main goal of the offering was to enrich Phelps and Harper. They spent the vast majority of the investor funds on themselves and their families, paying themselves generous six-figure salaries, and using the investor funds for rent, vacations, consumer goods, dating and adult websites, entertainment, golf, and hotels. They used a small amount to drill two wells. Neither well was commercially viable. Despite knowing this, the complaint alleges that Defendants continued soliciting additional funds from investors, purportedly to drill for oil in both wells.

The SEC's complaint charges Phelps and Harper with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil money penalties.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Arsen Ablaev, Jonathan Polish and Barry Isenman. The litigation will be led by Jonathan Polish. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.