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DATE News (chronologically)
01/19/11
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Former NASCAR, IndyCar owner settles lawsuit, to repay $3 million
A former NASCAR and IndyCar team owner will repay nearly $3 million to interests for three different companies that have alleged he defrauded them over five years.

Lowell G. "Bob" Hancher, Sheridan, faces no criminal charges, but an agreement approved this month as a result of a civil lawsuit by investors means he can no longer serve as an officer or director for any publicly traded company.

Anne McKinley, assistant regional director of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said Hancher likely couldn't get a job as a janitor at a penny-stock company in the future.

According to documents from U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa, Hancher raised nearly $2 million through his Westfield-based company Commerce Street Venture Group between April 2005 and November 2007. At least 60 investors thought they were putting money into a Colorado construction company. Hancher promised a 50 percent return on their investments, but instead used the money on personal and business expenses, court documents said.

From December 2007 and February 2008, Hancher directed accomplice Edward Whelan to place fraudulent orders for more than 60,000 shares of his company LMWW Holdings to prop up its sale price and increase its trading volume, according to the court documents.

Hancher, at the time the director and audit committee member of Cycle Country Accessories, convinced the company to give him $620,000, promising to buy back enough stock to take the company private, court documents said. Hancher and Whelan bought a small amount of stock between September 2008 and January 2010, but kept the bulk of the money for themselves. Hancher created false documents to cover his tracks, leading the company to unintentionally provide false information to the government, court documents said.

Cycle Country filed suit against Hancher last year, saying he cost them $800,000.

The SEC agreement bars Whelan from serving at a publicly traded company as well. He also faces no criminal charges.

McKinley didn't know if Hancher would be charged criminally in any of the cases. She declined to say if the SEC has shared the results of their investigation with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

A separate investigation continues into a mysterious fire that destroyed Hancher's $1.3 million Sheridan home in April 2010.

Brian Harwood, an investigator with the Sheridan Fire Department, said officials were still trying to determine the cause of the fire that destroyed the ground floor of the two-story home, causing much of the rest of house to collapse into the basement.

Hancher's business dealings "create a lot of suspicions," Harwood said. "We've got to be that much more thorough."

The state fire Marshall’s office and Hancher's insurance company are involved in the investigation, Harwood said. Indy Star

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