Hawaii couple charged with fraud over Semisub watercraft company

A little girl who is 5 years old is looking through a window inside a submarine. She is looking at the ocean underwater. Shot in Maui, Hawaii.

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A Hawaii couple was criminally charged with defrauding investors out of more than $28 million with bogus claims about building a watercraft that could partially submerge to give passengers underwater views, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

The Department of Justice said in an indictment unsealed this week that Curtiss and Jamey Jackson used a substantial portion of the money for their own benefit, including for luxury homes in California and Hawaii, a Mercedes-Benz, vacations, psychics and marijuana.

The couple was charged with securities fraud, conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud in an indictment unsealed this week. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The couple was also sued by the Securities Exchange Commission for fraud in August over their actions in connection with their company, Semisub Inc., based in Hawaii.

A lawyer for Curtiss Jackson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An attorney for Jamey Jackson was not listed.

The couple is accused of misleading more than 400 investors, routinely telling them over a decade that a prototype vessel was “weeks” or “months” away from starting operations.

The two also allegedly lied about their relationship with Hawaii Governor David Ige, claiming him as a close friend and supporter of their venture. They also falsely told investors they had relationships or agreements with parties including the Department of Homeland Security and private equity giant Blackrock, according to the indictment.

The couple reportedly sold securities for the company to investors across the country, including in Pennsylvania and California, where they had been barred from selling securities in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

The company website, Semisub.com, is still online and claims the Jacksons operated a 44-passenger semisubmersible vessel on Maui for “numerous years” before moving to develop their own vehicle. The site claims that “new vessel design is slated to be completed in early 2020.”

A detention hearing is set for Wednesday and the trial is set to begin in December.

Curtiss Jackson made his initial court appearance Monday in Hawaii, the Justice Department said. Jamey Denise Jackson made her initial court appearance in Connecticut.

An employee who picked up the phone at the company’s listed phone number declined to provide an immediate comment.

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