Last Wednesday, the former CEO of the Texas beverage company EarthWater Limited was sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraudulently selling over $12 million in stock. Four of his co-conspirators were sentenced to prison for their role in the scheme.
The Dallas-based company primarily sold to elderly and vulnerable individuals, according to a statement from the Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Cengiz Jan “CJ” Comu, 62, of Dallas, was the former CEO of EarthWater. Comu and his co-conspirators told investors falsely that 90% of the money they invested would be re-invested in EarthWater. However, most of the funds were used for the personal spending of the executives.
Comu pleaded guilty to the charge of 23 counts. His charges included conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, committing mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.
His co-conspirators who were tried included: “John Mervyn Price, 67, of Dallas, formerly EarthWater’s Chief Operating Officer; Richard Laurence Kadish, 61, of Del Ray Beach, Florida; Richard Lawrence Green, 71, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; and Suzanne Aileen Gagnier, 68, of Huntington Beach, California.”
Price pleaded guilty to 22 counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud, and money laundering and was sentenced to six years in prison. Kadish and Green both pleaded guilty to two counts, one of conspiracy to commit fraud and one of committing fraud, and were sentenced to six years in prison each. Gagnier was sentenced to two years in prison for one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
There are still six other co-conspirators waiting to be sentenced: “Harley E. ‘Buddy’ Barnes, III, 64, formerly of Plano, Texas, formerly EarthWater’s Chief Financial Officer; Russell Filippo, 72, of Oklahoma City; Daniel Thomas Broyles Sr., 65, formerly of Malibu, California; Joe Edward Duchinsky, 67, of Norwalk, California; Joseph Lucien Duplain, 81, of Murrieta, California; and Donald Andrew Rothman, 75, of Coral Springs, Florida.”
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) conducted the investigation. Christopher Fenton and Theodore M. Kneller of the USPIS Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary F. Walters and Beverly Chapman of the Northern District of Texas are acting as prosecutors.
The best way to protect the elderly and vulnerable from being deceived into giving their money to these schemes is to share information with them about the types of fraud schemes out there and give them the best information to protect themselves.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, 2021 alone saw more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 report $1.7 billion in losses to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The age range represents a 74% increase in losses compared to 2020.