For four years up until March 2011, T. Michael Haws made nationwide solicitations to lure investors in his DrinkRite, a Costa Mesa water filtration company, while concealing material facts.
Haws didn't tell his victims that he illegally diverted their investments to his personal use to pay for groceries, utilities, restaurant bills, pet care, medical expenses and to invest in an Iraqi Dinar scheme.
He also didn't tell his investors that he's a convicted felon who served a 37-month prison sentence stemming from a 1997 FBI arrest and grand jury indictment for a different con game.
Here's where the criminal justice system broke down in mindless secrecy that harms the public. If anybody--including potential investors--had wanted a full background check on Haws, they would have been blocked. Incredibly, then-U.S. District Court Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler sealed all records of the 1998 sentencing hearing and the fact that this crook had been sent to prison.
[Update/clarification on the secrecy point: For unknown reasons, the sentencing was originally sealed in 1998, but unsealed by a separate federal judge the following year. Still, to this very day, court records available to the public continue to show "sentencing under seal" in the disposition.]
According to Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Waier, Haws' latest scam resulted in 13 investors losing approximately $355,000, including one, duped, Enterprise, Alabama investor who lost $50,000.
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This week inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Haws--who was born in 1950--admitted his guilt and faces a statutory maximum punishment of five years in prison.
So far, a federal judge has not yet been selected to preside over the future sentencing hearing.