Oregon's largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency said Tuesday it has imposed a $1 million civil penalty against a Vancouver man for violating securities laws.
The Department of Consumer and Business Services also ordered Shelby H. Bell and his companies — Hobo Prince Economic Project LLC and Be'Rio Transports LLC — to stop doing business in the state.
The agency says Bell was not licensed to sell securities in Oregon and the investment was not registered with the state. Bell's Hobo Prince Economic Project promised investors a return of $900 a week for seven years, according to the agency.
He also invited investors to bid on assets worth more than $1.8 trillion that he claimed to own, including an International Bill of Exchange reportedly worth $357 billion, an electric generator worth at least $150 billion and a children's book worth between $50 million to $175 million domestically and more than $1.25 billion globally.
"While no investors apparently have made money, Bell in less than a year attracted more than $187,000 from at least 7,480 people in multiple states and U.S. territories," the agency said in a news release.
In an update posted Aug. 3 on his website, Bell said he's not doing anything illegal and that his project will succeed. He also warned against those who would interfere with his business or slander him.
State investigators found that claims about Bell's financial worth and details of the investment were untrue, according to the Department of Consumer and Business Services. The agency said Bell also failed to disclose key facts to investors.
Bell claimed to be worth billions, with backing from the U.S. Treasury through an International Bill of Exchange, "which actually has no value," the agency said. Also, investigators determined that Bell used investors' money to pay for food, movie tickets, a vehicle, and other personal expenses.
Bell had 20 days to appeal an initial action by the agency ordering him to stop illegally selling securities. The agency received no such request, "and therefore a default order was issued," Van Pounds, chief of enforcement and securities for the agency's division of finance and corporate securities, said in an email to The Columbian. If Bell does not pay the $1 million penalty, the agency will refer the case to its collections division, Pounds said.
Bell also ran afoul of the Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner. In April, the office said it ordered him to stop selling illegal insurance in Washington.
In a July 23 email to The Columbian, Rich Roesler, a spokesman for the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, said the office met briefly with Bell after issuing its order, "but since then, he has not responded to our requests for information.
"We are continuing to monitor the situation. The Washington state cease and desist order -- which he has not appealed -- remains in force."