R. Maurice Smith, a Spokane businessman and talk radio host, has bilked more than $1 million from investors in five states, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission claims.
Smith, who was vacationing and not available for comment, promised returns of up to 115 percent to investors in Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona and Texas, a complaint filed Thursday at U.S. District Court in Spokane said.
Investors were contacted from 1992 through 1994 at seminars and through advertisements and printed materials by companies that Smith controlled, the SEC said.
Smith and a partner signed an agreement with the SEC saying they would stop selling securities in violation of the Securities Act of 1933. However, the agency has not restricted Smith from the legal sale of securities in the future.
There was no evidence that Smith has used his twice-a-week talk show on KSBN-AM as a vehicle for soliciting investors.
“He doesn’t advise people to invest money,” said Scotti Mullen, program director for KSBN, 1239 AM, which airs the “Maurice’s Preparedness Digest” every Monday and Friday at noon.
“He usually has a militia member or some guest who talks about the government and ways to prepare for stuff that may or may not happen. He’s pretty well liked.”
Smith does not pay for the air time, Mullen said, nor is he paid by the station for his work.
Mullen said Smith was offered the time slot by former KSBN owner Tom Cock Jr. of Bellingham, Wash. Cock’s telephone number is unlisted.
Federal officials offered little hope to the hundreds of people who entrusted at least $1.1 million with Smith and his companies. Spokane was a major target of the scam, the SEC said.
“The chances are pretty slim for recovery,” said Jerry Isenberg, SEC attorney in Washington, D.C. “Whatever money they raised has been lost.”
No one knows where Smith spent, or lost, the $1.1 million he received from investors, Isenberg said. All of the money was transferred to offshore companies controlled by Smith and his partner, and those companies are bankrupt or in receivership.
Smith and partner William T. Warren, a former Spokane resident who now lives in Largo, Fla., did business under the company names of International Consulting and Management Ltd. and Professional Advisors Management Corp.
These companies controlled two mutual funds, Providence Managed Portfolios Ltd. and Providence International Debenture Fund Ltd.; an annuities company called Providence Annuity and Assurance Ltd.; and a commodities futures trading firm. The various companies were based in the Bahamas and British West Indies.
Smith currently uses a toll-free line that calls a company known as International Asset Protection.
Smith and his companies were not licensed by the SEC and told investors that their money was backed by “prime-bank” debt securities. Such securities were supposed to be issued by the world’s 100-largest banks, but in reality they were bogus, Isenberg said.
“These funds are supposed to generate enormous returns,” he said, “but they simply do not exist.”
Prime-bank securities are a growing fraud worldwide, Isenberg said.