Hundreds of investors who handed over their life savings to a Canadian evangelist who promised to invest it in an African gold mining company will likely never see that money again.
Logger-turned-evangelist Len Lindstrom convinced his investors that the mining company he founded in Liberia back in 2009 would reap a huge return on their money, calling it "God’s business," the CBC reported last week.
Seven hundred believers agreed to give Lindstrom money, adding up to at least $18 million ($16 million U.S.) for his company, Liberty International Mineral Corp. Lindstrom told investors he had licensed about 8,000 square miles of potentially gold-rich land in Liberia.
“Len convinced me through all the hype... that this was God’s business,” duped investor Dean Britton of Saskatoon, Canada, told the CBC. “This was going to be huge. I’m talking 20, 30, 50 times return on the investment.”
Britton bet on Lindstrom, saying he went all in. “Let’s just say that at the time it was everything. It was my life savings.”
Initially it seemed like a well-run company, with accomplished geologists, accountants, lawyers and IT professionals, Britton said. But there were a few important details Lindstrom failed to mention, Britton admitted, like Lindstrom’s compensation, which included a $200,000 annual salary and a Hummer.
“For a little ma and pa company with no revenue, no proven resources, no cash flow, no corporate investment — to pay himself that? And not tell us?” Britton said.
Lindstrom defended his salary-- claiming it was below average pay for a president and CEO -- and his ownership of the majority of Liberty’s shares, despite having invested just $60,000 of his own money.
“What Len conveniently failed to mention is that about 68 percent of all those shares are personally owned by him and his son and his wife and daughter,” Britton said. “So he could do whatever he wanted to with zero transparency, zero accountability.”
In the fall of 2009, Canadian securities regulators began to investigate the company. The Alberta and BC Securities Commissions issued a cease trade order against Lindstrom’s company, over concerns with the way he raised funds.
Britton also was concerned about Lindstrom’s lack of communication. He and other investors had to learn information through media articles or court documents, rather than from Lindstrom.
Britton started digging into Lindstrom’s company, after Lindstrom cut off all contact with investors in 2012. He said from mid-2009 to the end of 2012, Lindstrom failed to provide investors updates about the company. Britton says when Liberty was dissolved by the BC Securities Commission in 2012, he never told his investors.
Britton decided to try to contact as many of Lindstrom’s investors as possible to help get their money back.
Lindstrom told the CBC he could have done a better job communicating.
“There's the odd situation that you could look at and say ‘Yeah, we coulda done that a little different,’” said Lindstrom. “But did we do anything wrong? Did we do illegal things? Did we do things the wrong way? I'd say no.”
Lindstrom was once a logger who admitted to using drugs, until he made his conversion to Christianity and started preaching. He traveled across Canada and the world as a preacher, filling stadiums with followers. He was preaching in Liberia in 2004 when he got the idea for the gold mining company.
Lindstrom insists Liberty is a victim of Liberian corruption, saying the government refused to renew his company’s mineral licenses in 2008 in order to take advantage of the exploration work Liberty had completed.
“They liked what they saw,” Lindstrom explained. “They [saw] all the results and stuff that we were reporting and the opportunity to capitalize (on) it.”
Although a Liberian judge ruled that Lindstrom’s licenses be reinstated later in 2012, Lindstrom says the Liberian government hasn’t complied and he doesn’t have his land back. He says he plans to sue the Liberian government in international court.
Britton thinks that’s a longshot, but he still has hope of recouping some of his money. “It’s like the ultimate hail mary. We need a miracle wrapped in another miracle,” Britton said.
Lindstrom, 63, is now back in Canada and tells the CBC he’s broke and homeless. His business is out of cash and has been dissolved. His house has been foreclosed on and his wife is divorcing him.
“I am absolutely flat busted,” Lindstrom told CBC. “I’m a vagabond… with no money, no credit card, no driver’s license, no vehicle, no office building, no house, no boat, no nothing. And not even my own bed to sleep in. So everything -- gone.”
But Lindstrom believes in miracles too and is eyeing the future. “Looking forward to the payday that’s coming and by God’s grace it’s going to be a good one,” Lindstrom said.