SALT LAKE CITY — The founder and president of Empire Energy in Utah has been charged with defrauding investors of more than $300,000.
On Friday, the Utah Attorney General's Office charged Spencer Kent Barton, 60, of Fresno, California, with eight counts of securities fraud, a second-degree felony; acting as an unregistered securities agent, a third-degree felony; and engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony.
Barton obtained approximately $359,000 by soliciting investments for Empire Energy, but made "$28,171 in purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, Amazon, PayPal, air and ground transportation, which is consistent with personal use and withdrew approximately $150,655 in cash," according to charging documents.
Barton, who used to live in Ferron, Emery County, was the founder of Empire Energy in Utah, a natural gas mining company, according to court records.
"Between September 2016 and November 2017, Barton offered and sold an investment contract and/or working interest in natural gas and/or oil wells to approximately 50 investors and collected approximately $359,157 in connection with the investment opportunity," charging documents state. "In connection with the offer and/or sale of securities, Barton, either directly or indirectly, made untrue statements of material facts and/or omitted to state material facts necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they are made, not misleading."
After collecting money, prosecutors say Barton spent it for personal use.
"To date, investors are owed approximately $332,107 in principal alone," according to charging documents.
A $25,000 warrant was issued Friday for Barton's arrest.