Oregon's largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency said Thursday it has ordered a Vancouver man to stop illegally selling securities. The Department of Consumer and Business Services also said it plans to levy a $1 million civil penalty against Shelby H. Bell, who it said has taken in nearly $200,000 from thousands of investors.
Bell has 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.
Oregon regulators say Bell, through his companies — Hobo Prince Economic Project LLC and Be'Rio Transports LLC — violated several Oregon securities laws, including selling securities without a license, selling unregistered securities, and making untrue statements and omitting material facts about the investments he offered.
Bell has 20 days to dispute the case leveled against him. Any challenge would be heard by an administrative law judge from Oregon's Office of Administrative Hearings. "He can contest the facts that support the order," said Mark Peterson, spokesman for the Department of Consumer and Business Services.
In a post on his website Thursday, Bell wrote that he has "chosen to fight these legal battles to their final conclusion. Unfortunately, until these matters are resolved, little can be done with regard to sending out cards and money. With an optimistic outlook and appraisal of things, I go into the fray and the darkest night."
The recorded message on an office number listed on Bell's website said people were unable to post updates on the website, take phone messages or answer email but that they hoped to provide updated information. "We'll be back soon," the recorded message said.
Oregon regulators say Bell offered investors an opportunity for a one-time investment of $25 to join a program, the Hobo Prince Economic Project, that would provide investors with $900 a week for seven years, which amounts to a total return of $327,600.
Bell has taken in more than $187,000 in an eight-month period from nearly 7,500 investors throughout the United States and several U.S. territories, regulators say. They also assert that Bell used investors' money for personal living expenses, including food, movie tickets and the purchase of a vehicle.
Bell solicited investors through in-person seminars, mostly at locations affiliated with religious groups, according to regulators.
He subsequently branched out into webinars. He also has a public website where people can read about the program and find instructions on how to invest.
"Even though the initial investment for people was only $25, this is still fraudulent," David Tatman, administrator of the Department of Consumer and Business Services' Division of Finance and Corporate Securities, said in a news release. "Those who sell investments must be licensed in Oregon and their securities must be registered in this state."