February 10, 2006
Columbia, Mo. — A group of promoters who reportedly collected $2 million from investors for vending machine "black boxes" that were never developed for production must immediately stop soliciting and selling the investments, under a temporary restraining order obtained today by Attorney General Jay Nixon.
Nixon is suing the principals behind the Columbia-based UMI Inc., in part because he says they diverted investments intended for development and production for personal use. Those uses included purchases from luxury department store Nieman Marcus, meals at upscale Columbia restaurants and a Christmas tree, and to pay judgments from previous lawsuits brought against them.
The lawsuit says the black boxes, promoted to UMI investors since 1999 for use in vending machines to manage money and monitor inventory, never went beyond the assessment or testing stage. Some investors made stock purchases in UMI for as much as $450,000. Nixon said some investors who requested their money back have not had it returned.
Nixon says the defendants engaged in deception and fraud in connection with the sale of UMI stock and other investment opportunities. The matter was brought to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office by the FBI, which has an ongoing investigation into the companies and individuals.
"It appears that investors, who were promised high returns on investments that were supposedly risk-free, were continually led to believe that mass production of this technology was always just around the corner," Nixon says. "We want to stop the marketing and sale of this illusion, which enriched the promoters but not the investors. This joint investigation with the FBI is the second in mid-Missouri in the past year, demonstrating the excellent relationship between our agencies."
The lawsuit, filed in Boone County Circuit Court, names the following individuals as defendants: William C. McNeely, Craig F. Swoboda and Gail M. Wilkerson, all of Columbia; and the following businesses as defendants: UMI Inc., Vendacom Financial Group LLC, Transenco Inc., Computerized Vending Corp., Advance Development Inc. and American Technology Centers Inc.
The temporary restraining order, issued by Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton, prohibits the defendants from advertising, soliciting, offering for sale, trading or selling any investment opportunity, including shares of stock in UMI Inc. or in any of their companies. Nixon’s lawsuit is seeking restitution for investors as well as penalties against the defendants. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for March 13.