"Mother Jones" Profiles Christian Oil Prospecting in Israel
Richard Bartholomew printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 02:24:27 AM EST
The latest issue of Mother Jones has an interesting article (subscription only) on attempts by American Christians to find oil in Israel. The author, Mariah Blake, concentrates mainly on Ness Energy, a shell company devised by Hayseed Stephens in 1997:
In late 2002 he told Prophecy Club listeners that "experts from Israel and around the world" had studied his planned drilling site and concluded that "18 to 50 billion barrels of oil" were hidden beneath the surface, reserves worth up to a trillion dollars. "You cannot find such good odds in Vegas, Atlantic City, or anywhere else in the world, even if you are nothing but a gambler."

However, investors discovered that shares could not be re-sold; they watched them rise in value, then fall dramatically. Ness has acquired $10 million, despite not actually digging anywhere. Blake notes that several Ness insiders also have links with a company called Safescript Pharmacies, which had its license revoked by the SEC allegedly "for artificially inflating its stock value through a fraudulent accounting scheme":  the head of Safescript was Stanley Swanson, who was also founding CEO of Ness, while a Safescript consultant was Ivan Webb. Webb was Ness's financial officer and was also involved with a firm called Broadband Wireless that had allegedly cheated investors. Ness, according to the article, purchased $1 million dollars of shares from Safescript which became worthless soon after.

Blake also travelled to Jerusalem to look through Israel's oil register; she says that she discovered that Stephens controlled a second private company, named Hesed, which would receive any profits from drilling undertaken by Ness - leaving Ness investors with nothing. In 2003, Hesed and another firm owned by Stephens were sold to Ness, according to Blake at inflated prices. Stephens died a month later.

Ness, though, is still going, and for a month a businessman named Anthony Allenby was appointed CEO - leading to a raise in stock prices and payouts to executives, but no actual oil. Blake describes Allenby as "British"; he is actually South African, although based in the UK. In the last few months (this isn't in Blake's piece) Allenby has established Allenby-Ness Oil, much to the displeasure of Stephens' son, who has fired off transatlantic legal threats on behalf of Ness Energy to Allenby in Uckfield in East Sussex, where he is associated with an obscure "Churchill and Associates Limited".

Blake's article also draws attention to some other figures who have promised oil bonanzas for Christians but then failed to deliver: Andy Sorelle, who was puffed by Pat Robertson on the 700 Club in the 1980s; Bernard Coffindaffer, "who searched for oil using scriptural clues and a vial of his own blood"; and Covenant Energy, which ended in fraud convictions.

There is also a profile of Zion Oil, whose banner appears often at the head of the WorldNetDaily homepage. I've been following Zion Oil (see here, scroll down to "Oil Prospecting") ever since Hal Lindsey encouraged his readers on WND to buy shares, without disclosing that his cousin Ralph DeVore was a member of the board or that he himself had received a gift of shares worth $337,500 (DeVore's shares are worth $4.9 million; the significance of DeVore was first noticed by me. Blake's article avoids going into DeVore's spat Zion CEO John Brown, which I blogged here). Blake observes that

Unlike Ness, Zion is a legitimate wildcatting venture, with respected geologist on its board of directors.

However:

Zion was never close to striking oil; at its very first stockholders' meeting in June, the firm announced plans to temporarily abandon its only well due to technical problems.

I wrote a piece for Talk to Action about this meeting at the time, where I also explored the religious thinking and strange Biblical exegesis that inspired Zion Oil's founder.

Full reference:

Mariah Blake, `Let there be light crude', Mother Jones January-February 2007: 54-57, 81, 86.

(Hat tip to a reader for bringing this to my attention)




Display:
"Literal" interpretations of the Bible often seem to lead - bad science, and bad business.

Of course even the use of the word "literal" there is suspect, as demonstrated by leading Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 02:01:11 PM EST


Never mind, of course, that most of Israel is in one of the few parts of the Middle East that is actually geologically unsuited for petroleum...

Of course, that won't stop the usual suspects in the dominionist community from committing Fun With Affinity Fraud.

For those unaware, "Israeli Oil" schemes seem to be one of the new hotnesses in affinity frauds explicitly targeting the dominionist, and in particular the neopentecostal dominionist, community; the Mother Jones article is just one of the first mainstream sources to cover this.  Pat Robertson in particular has been involved in affinity fraud before (namely, the use of the Operation Blessing frontgroup he operates to traffic blood diamonds including transporting mining equipment to blood diamond miners in what was then known as Zaire).

There is truly a dazzling array of various sorts of affinity frauds promoting various schemes in the "Holy Land", or products supposedly originating from the "Holy Land", explicitly targeting the neopente dominionist and "Christian Zionist" communities.  Among them are the "Israeli wildcatter" schemes (such as this); various Ponzi schemes directly referencing investments in Israel; and MLM schemes marketing "Holy Land" products.  

Some particular types of "Holy Land affinity fraud" go to the frankly bizarre (unless you are either a walkaway or have some serious backgrounder in neopente dominionist internal group mythology); these include affinity schemes to raise money for cattle farms in Israel for breeding red heifers to sacrifice in order dedicate the Third Temple (which is promoted especially in neopente dominionist communities, due to the building of the Third Temple and the appearance of a red heifer for same being major "end time" signs)--a rather explosive subject, seeing as the Third Temple would be built on what is known as the Dome of the Rock and one of the holiest sites in Islam.  

A less-explosive (at least in world affairs, if not in the financial sense) scheme which involved funneling massive amounts of out-of-circulation 1-agora pieces out of Israel for distribution in churches as "genuine widow's mites" (this seems to have had its origins with the PTL Club) seems to have been quite widespread in Assemblies of God megachurches throughout the 80s (I have a small hoard of the "late 70s/early 80's" issue 1-agora pieces that the dominionist church I walked away from distributed regularly, as well as a mid-70's 1-agora piece that PTL Club mailed to households in the early 80s).  In both cases, these were given out as rewards for or as encouragement for large "seed faith offerings" above and beyond tithing); I always wondered how much Israel's economy must hurt, until I learned (via hitting Israel's equivalent of the US Mint) that the "Widow's Mites" distributed in these churches were typically out of circulation for years within Israel itself by the time they were distributed Stateside.

by dogemperor on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 03:55:52 AM EST


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