Petro America chief seeks new trial in fraud case

KANSAS CITY (AP) — A former businessman convicted of bilking mostly poor investors out of millions of dollars is asking for a new trial, arguing that one of the jurors was a tailor who altered several of his suits that prosecutors said he purchased with investor funds.

Petro America Corp. founder Isreal Owen Hawkins was convicted earlier this month of conspiracy, securities fraud, money laundering and other charges related to his purported oil and mining operation, which he claimed was worth $284 billion. Four other top leaders of the Missouri-based company also were convicted for their roles in the $10.2 million scheme.

Prosecutors allege they illegally sold unregistered stock to people who weren’t eligible to invest in risky start-ups, many of them poor and elderly churchgoers who were persuaded by their pastors to buy stock in a company many hailed as a blessing.

Hawkins, 57, of Kansas City, Kan., filed a motion in federal court in Kansas City last week asking for a new trial on the basis of juror misconduct. Hawkins wrote that one of the jurors worked at Halls Department Store, where he purchased several suits, but didn’t disclose during jury selection that she knew Hawkins and had altered his suits.

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