A Ridiculous Stock Tip in the Mail, CrestView Exploration Inc, CanadianInvestor.com and James Campbell
During the last week of May 2020 I made the trip to my mailbox and inside I found an envelope, emboldened with red text that said:
Coronavirus Affecting Markets: Read Now
There was a single page packed inside the envelope. The title of that single page started with:
“A RECESSION IS AROUND THE CORNER BUT THIS CANADIAN STOCK COULD SOAR OVER 500%”
The letter was ostensibly written by James Campbell. Campbell claims he has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a degree in geology from Stanford. This combination of credentials (a stock analyst and a geologist) seems like an incredible combination.
The two page letter (which you can read for yourself below) is attempting to sell the reader the stock of Crestview Exploration Inc. Crestview Exploration is a mining company engaged in exploration, the company is ostensibly real and is listed on the Canadian Security Exchange (CRS). Campbell’s pitch is straightforward, and uses very elementary logic: Gold. Campbell suggests you should invest in Crestview because:
“Gold has been the No1 safe haven throughout human history, and Crestview Exploration’s properties have billions of it”James Campbell 2020
James Campbell makes ridiculous claims. But…
Who is James Campbell?
James Campbell, the mythical stock analyst geologist, is most certainly a fake. A web search for the infamous James Campbell turns up scraps, a rock star geologist that is making catastrophically successful stock picks, is a near ghost. Not only is he most likely fake, I can say I am not the only one scratching my head. Google Autocompletes let’s in on the fact that we are not the only ones looking…
The Mailer Is A Scam: Pump and Dump
The language of the mailer suggests that the mailer is a scam. The Alberta Securities Exchange reported on this mailer, as well as the Government of Saskatchewan , and the Government of Quebec. Other sites have also picked up on this mailer, the IKN blog had a few humorous articles about Crestview . Caesars Report also reported on this mailer as well.
Crestview Exploration has denied any involvement with this mailer. This was not just a local huckster hocking stock tips, people have been reporting this suspicious envelope from coast to coast. Here is a Redditor from BC noting the mailer and another.
As for the grif; a pump and dump scheme works by a nefarious actor, who owns a lot of stock artificially bumps up the stock, usually by aggressively promoting it. Once the stock is at a high price the nefarious actor dumps the stock, while gaining personal profit.
Crestview Exploration Inc
But at the centre of this mailer is one junior mining company: Crestview Exploration Inc. What about Crestview?
Crestview is an exploration company, and is one of a litany of different “junior mining companies”. Junior Mining companies are typically companies focused on exploration and development of mining resources. Many of these are speculative and penny stocks.
Crestview Exploration was listed on the Canadian Security Exchange in 2019, but it has been registered as a Canadian Corporation since 2017. On paper it’s headquartered in Calgary. Although in recent times, Crestview has listed their legal Counsel as their contact address. Since the pandemic, Crestview is probably wise to work from home, since it appears many of their key people do not even reside in Alberta, making an office unnecessary.
Looking at Viability
There are some odd things with Crestview Exploration. My analysis was in part to determine if Crestview Exploration was a shell company. For some context, In 2017 Micheal Randles was convicted to of conspiracy to commit money laundering, part of his grift was using a litany of brokerages to commit pump and dump campaigns related to a mining company called Bryn Resources. Bryn was just a shell company. To see if Crestview itself is part of the grift, I wanted to check the viability of the company and see if there were signs of a legitimate company, swirling away in the sea of junior mining companies.
According to Crestview’s website, the company is active in Nevada, looking for gold in Elko County. The main development site is a site called Rock Creek Project. There are a few other projects, but they are all located in the same general area. Other companies are active in the area. This area is part of the Carlin Trend, a historically active area for gold.
Crestview list three projects in Nevada, with one office in Reno. An active development office in the area of operations is a promising sign of a functional company . Crestview provided an address for their Reno office, the listed address “117-2557 Beek Street, Reno Nevada, USA 89509” apparently does not exist. There does not seem to be a Beek Street in Nevada. When I search that address online, the only direct hits come back to the Crestview site and a data scraper website. I asked CEO Glen Watson about this and he said it didn’t matter and their guy “moved”. The blog IKN pointed out that Crestview had misspelled Chief on their management page and how it was quickly fixed afterwards, but I am unsure why Crestview hasn’t fixed their address on their site, especially after he was notified that it does not resolve to anything.
As an aside, their geologist Mark Abrams is located in Reno, so being so charitable, I can be considered saintly, I will assume Mark Abrams flipped over an address to whoever is responsible for the website and took it on good faith. Otherwise, my mind starts to melt down like a Soviet Era RBMK nuclear reactor when I try to understand why Crestview would post an easily provable wrong address.
I have yet to see some pictures from anyone onsite in Elko County. Crestview has not published much in extra content. I was looking for a picture or Mark Abrams or a contractor or someone, wearing a hardhat sitting in the middle of Elko County doing mining things.
I did check Crestview’s January 2020 Investor presentation. The 2020 presentation consisted of a few maps, but also consisted of a few images of the desert. I conducted a reverse image search on these two images and they were both from Google.
Looks like that the image above is from landscapeimagery.com. The other picture in the slide show, while I can’t find a direct page it links to, but there were numerous hits on the reverse image search for a website called unsplash.com
The June 2020 presentation however is more exciting, there are a couple images that did not have any hits in a reverse image search! This could suggest they were original pictures, but they do not suggest they were from any of the Crestview Nevada sites either. The pictures are uncaptioned and there is no context. A person appears in one of the picture, but I do not recognize him from any of my research thus far.
The absence of pictures do not prove anything necessarily, it’s possible that they do not believe in cameras, or something else. There’s nothing legally wrong with that, however, as a would-be investor the fact that no one has gone down there to just even take some pictures has me rising my eyebrows. People are being paid salaries to be part of this lil’ mining company, why wouldn’t anyone just take an afternoon to walk around and see check it out?
Transitioning to the financial side of the house, Crestview Exploration (CNSX:CRS) is a lightly capitalized company. As of writing it has been trading for less than a dollar for the past few days. The market cap is about $8-9 million.
Below you can see a graph showing the performance of Crestview. Crestview performed best in January, but we also see a smaller spike in April that could potentially correlate with the first batch of Crestview mailers that went out across Canada. We see another small bump in the end of May, which is around the time I received my Crestview mailer. This pattern could potentially show a pump and dump.
Crestview Exploration Inc has denied involvement with the promotional mailer on numerous occasions.
The Watson Web and Industry Incest
Chief Executive Officer Glen Ryamond Watson is at the helm of CrestView Exploration. Watson’s resume is full of experience working in marketing. Crestview’s biography of Mr. Watson says the following:
“Mr. Watson has had a distinguished career in marketing consultation and served as an officer and director of several US and Canadian public companies.“From the Crestview website
Mr. Watson is a busy man, not only is he the CEO of a fledgling junior mining company, but he is also apparently president at Small Cap Power and Ubika Research (both owned by Gravitas Research). If that wasn’t enough work, Mr Watson is also founder and CEO of Stockworks Agency.
Stock Works is an industry expert that offers a wide variety of high-level high-touch investor relations services to private and small cap public companies. We are committed to helping clients grow their brand by capturing and converting high-quality leads to increase awareness and maximize share value.From Stockworksagency.com
That’s a huge handful of companies to skipper.
Above summarizes Mr. Watson’s marketing type side gigs, but he’s also has gotten his hands dirty with other Mining operations. He was associated with La Qunta Resources Corp and while he may not be listed under the management team, Mr Watson is associated to Viscount Mining. Mr. Watson’s role at Viscount is probably something akin to investor relations. I have discovered a phone number that was listed on Crestview, Viscount and Stockwell Agency and Glen Watson picked up when I called it. Let’s summarize the current jobs Mr. Watson has:
- Crestview Exploration: CEO
- Ubika Research: President (subsidiary of Gravitas Financial Inc)
- Smallcappower: President (subsidiary of Gravitas Financial Inc)
- Stockworks Agency: CEO
- Formerly La Quinta Resources Corp
- Unknown relations to Viscount Mining but his number is listed for Viscount mining and Crestview. (I’d wager he has a marketing type role for Viscount mining).
There has been some interactions between these companies as well. Small Cap Power has mentioned Crestview Exploration in an article published in January of 2020, as part of a Carlin Trend to watch. The conflict of interest between Mr. Watson, his relationship with Crestview and his relationship with Small Cap Power is not disclosed in this article.
Crestview was also mentioned on Small Cap Power Facebook page, a few times . Since Watson was asked about this conflict of interest in a recent Globe and Mail article, these videos have gone private and the references on the Small Cap Power Facebook have been removed. The videos showed Mark Abrams discussing Crestview Exploration.
Watson’s fingerprints are most evident on Small Cap Power. The company’s pitch is for small cap companies to promote their business with Small Cap Power.
In the recent Globe & Mail article on the topic, the journalist asked Mr. Watson about this apparent conflict of interest and he told them that he was not with the company at the time, and just like that, there was no apparent conflict of interest.
If you are curious about what these videos were discussing, you are in luck. As of writing the Crestview Youtube account has not removed these videos from their account. As you can clearly see in the videos, they are associated with Small Cap Power.
Junior Mining Web
While conducting this research I seemed to have stumbled into this bizarre web. I alluded to this above, Glen Watson is busy guy. But he’s not the only one who is part of this web.
Mark Abrams, the listed VP of Exploration for Crestview exploration is also the the CFO and VP of Exploration for Black Mammoth Metals (listed on the TSX Venture Exchange as BMM).
Mark Abrams is not just associated with Crestview and Black Mammoth Metals, he is also listed as technical advisor of Viscount Mining Corp, which has a connection again to Glen Watson. Finally Mark Abrams is also co-founder of a private company in the US called IDA Gold Corporation. President, CEO and Corporate Secretary of Black Mammoth Metals, Dustin Henderson is also the President and Co-owner of IDA Gold Corporation.
It’s interesting as well, that Mark Abrams stylizes his career as a consultant on Linkedin and there are no mention of Crestview, Black Mammoth or Viscount Mining. He’s a geological mercenary.
Believe it or not, but there are some other cross pollination. CEO of Viscount Mining Jim Mackenzie is also director at Crestview Exploration Inc.
As an fun anecdote, Dr. Grant Devine, former Primer of Saskatchewan is bestowed with the prestigious title of Chairman for Viscount Mining. That title wasn’t important enough to be mentioned on Dr. Devine’s LinkedIn though, that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in that company.
It should be mentioned here that as far as I can tell, there isn’t anything necessarily nefarious with these people occupying a litany of roles at different companies in the same sector. It’s just odd.
Viscount Mining, Black Mammoth Metals, Crestview Exploration, all junior mining companies, what are the similarities? Well as we seen above, they share a lot of the same people, and they are highly speculative. Viscount Mining has been a perennial money leaker since it’s 2013 inception. Black Mammoth Metals has a market cap worth less than some of the houses around here.
The below quote from Viscount highlights some of the anxieties around these companies.
Mining and exploration involves a high degree of risk and there can be no assurance that current exploration programs will result in profitable mining operations. The Company [Viscount Mining] has no source of revenue, and has significant cash requirements to conduct its planned exploration, meet its administrative overhead and maintain its resource interests.Viscount Mining Corp. Condensed Interim Consolidated Financial Statements November 30, 2019 and 2018.
Let’s return to the first thread of this story, the mailer I and many others received.
The mailer I received appears to be a newer version of another mailer sent out in late April 2020. The overall message is the same between the old and the new mailer. One key difference was the original mailer pointed people to Researchreport.ca. ResearchReport.ca appears to be defunct as of now. All that appears is
coming soon…The only text on Researchreport.ca
Early reporting on this scheme said that Researchreport.ca was potentially used to gather emails. A cached version of this website suggests at one time it was a blog used to promote bitcoin.
The May promotional mailer (the one I received) now instead points users to CanadianInvestor.com. At first glance this website looks a very active news/magazine website discussing investment stories.
CanadianInvestor.com has existed for nearly four years now. CanadianInvestor.com appears to have a small social media presence, and it’s main content is republishing stories written by others. As of writing I have yet to find any original content on CanadianInvestor.com (asides the contact page).
CanadianInvestor.com has a stock trading game, which I noted there was only 39 other people on the leader board. Only a few of those players seemed to have made any trades.
CanadianInvestor.com has in recent days (while drafting this piece) has stated on their contact page:
NOTICE : It has come to our attention that our website name was used in a stock mail promotion which we have no affiliation with whatsoever. For further information click here.Text on https://www.canadianinvestor.com/contact/
Newmarket Media Inc.
If you look in the footer of CanadianInvestor.com, Newmarket Media Inc is mentioned as the owner. Searching for Newmarket Media Inc. lead me to a half baked site (https://newmarketmedia.net/).
Newmarket Media Inc’s website appears to be half baked for a couple reasons.
A “Hello World” post is accessible on the New Market Inc website. The above mentioned facts suggests that New Market Inc was created in haste. Additionally a login page is also accessible. Newmarket media is running an old version of word press (4.9.3) which was released in 2018.
I did find the director of Newmarket Media on Linkedin, on Linkedin she doesn’t mention Newmarket Media but she does list her current position at her website, CanadianInvestor.com. She also had a carer working in marketing and mining. That type of resume does make it seem believable that someone like that could be behind the mailer. However, there isn’t any real proof.
Unfortunately I don’t see the grift here. Promotional mailer that went out coast to coast could potentially be in the hundred of thousands of dollars according to the Globe & Mail article. Why include a website that could easily trace back to a person? I doubt the Paxful bitcoin links generate a lot of revenue for the site…
Wild speculation time
It’s an interesting question, why the person who sent out this mailer decided to choose CanadianInvestor.com. Potentially a sophisticated actor gained malicious access to the CanadianInvestor.com site and placed malware on the site. However, I’m skeptical of this, and a Virus Total Scan didn’t reveal anything either. Perhaps the author of the Campbell mailer decided that CanadianInvestor.com was small enough and looked legit enough to help sell the message. Scam’s really are often just superficially convincing.
I wouldn’t invest in Crestview with your money. I’m not going to say it’s a shell company just based on the evidence, but it doesn’t appear to be overly sophisticated either. The CEO has his hands in too many pies and there is a litany of conflict of interest cases to be looked at there. These junior mining companies don’t seem to be overly successful. But one could say, that’s just the nature of this business. As of writing there isn’t anything obviously illegal with these companies either.
The Globe Reported that authorities are officially looking into this mailer, hopefully the old school approach of aggressive mailers has left a paper trail that can be followed up on and we can see how that turns out.