SEC sues Semisub’s founders for fraud, alleging they used investor funds for psychics and drugs

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the SEC alleged that since 2017 Curtiss and Denise Jackson collected $4.7 million from investors.
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 6:18 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 5, 2022 at 6:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has sued the founders of Hawaii’s Semisub tour boat, alleging they used money from investors to pay for psychics, drugs and rent.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the SEC alleged that since 2017 Curtiss and Denise Jackson collected $4.7 million from investors but spent about a third of the money for their own personal expenses.

But Curtiss Jackson disputed the allegations, saying they’re based on complaints from disgruntled investors.

The allegations are part of a civil lawsuit, but white-collar crime experts say the details in the complaint could amount to a crime.

“The SEC was pretty thorough,” said former Honolulu Deputy Police Chief John McCarthy, who once headed the HPD’s white-collar crimes division.

“I mean, these people were just running this scheme, living high on the hog.”

According to the SEC, the couple used the proceeds from investors to pay:

  • $8,500 a month for their personal rent;
  • $1,400 a month for car leases;
  • and over $200,000 for psychics, recreational drugs and other activities.

“Psychics I know nothing about. I never called a psychic of my life,” Curtiss Jackson shot back.

Jackson denied that he used company money for personal expenses but said that as a disabled military vet, he does smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“So that allegation is just stupid. I did not buy it with company money. I bought it with my own money,” he said.

Jackson said that had he intended to defraud anyone, he wouldn’t have put more than a decade of hard work into completing the unique vessel.

“I would have walked away with all their money and been gone. I mean, there was times I had four or $5 million in the bank. I could have just walked away,” he said.

Jackson and his estranged wife spent more than 14 years and $30 million building the boat. But Jackson said the project ran into numerous permitting delays with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The boat was finally completed and began sailing in 2019 but service was interrupted by the pandemic. Jackson said he plans to restart in the next week and a half.

“My main thing with this is not just to make money but also to turn around and give back to the community,” he said.

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