Olympia City Councilman Jim Cooper was pitchman for drug dealer’s securities fraud

Part one in a series on felony drug dealer Joe Hyer’s connections to local politicians.

Olympia City Councilman Jim Cooper enthusiastically pitched a business that was at the core of an investment scam by felony drug dealer Joe Hyer.

Joe Hyer at his 2010 sentencing for felony drug dealing. Photo from The Olympian

Fraud and illegal securities charges had already been filed against Hyer and his business, Olycentro Inc., at the time that Cooper was representing the business in the media.

Charges were filed on December 5, 2014.  Cooper was enthusiastically promoting Hyer’s business in February 2015.

Jim Cooper is currently chair of the City of Olympia’s Finance Committee.

Washington’s Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) charged Joe Hyer with fraudulently inducing people to invest in his business, Olycentro Inc. in December 2014.

Jim Cooper. From 2016 Video Voters Guide.

DFI stated that Hyer had grossly overstated the projected earnings of Olycentro to potential investors.

Hyer also withheld information about the risks associated with the business, and withheld information about his personal financial troubles that appeared to be the catalyst for the investment scam.

When Joe Hyer’s previous business, the “Alpine Experience”, shut down in March 2014, it was over $800,000 in debt.  Part of that debt was personally owed by Hyer.

Based on DFI’s findings, it appears that Hyer was selling shares of Olycentro as part of a Ponzi scheme to pay off his Alpine Experience debts.

DFI also charged Hyer with illegally offering securities without registering them.

Click here to read the charges.

Hyer did not contest DFI’s charges of securities fraud and illegal selling of securities.  He accepted a Cease and Desist Consent Order in April 2015.

Source – Washington Department of Financial Institutions, Securities Division

Cooper promoted Hyer’s Olycentro in “Thurston Talks” after fraud charges had been filed

Jim Cooper publicly promoted Hyer’s Olycentro in a February 13, 2015 article in “Thurston Talks.”‘  The article had been submitted by the “Centro”, which is part of Olycentro Inc.  Jim Cooper was the spokesman for Olycentro.

February 13, 2015 was halfway in between when fraud charges were filed against Hyer and Olycentro, and Hyer’s acceptance of the Consent Order.

In that February 13, 2015 article, Jim Cooper made no mention of the charges that had already been filed against Hyer and Olycentro. Nor did he mention all the evidence that formed the basis of DFI’s charges. His quotes were all ponies and rainbows, and happy days ahead.

I have found no statement by either Joe Hyer or Jim Cooper, acknowledging the uncontested DFI charges or the Consent Order.

RCW 19.86 is Washington’s Unfair Business Practices—Consumer Protection Act.

RCW 19.86.020 states:

Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful.

Olycentro is still registered as a Washington State corporation.   Jim Cooper is listed as an officer of Olycentro on the Secretary of State’s website.

Cooper currently being sued by Washington Attorney General over campaign finances

Jim Cooper is currently being sued by the Washington Attorney General, who claims that Cooper broke campaign finance laws during his unsuccessful 2016 campaign for Thurston County Commissioner.

The Attorney General states that Jim Cooper (1) used campaign funds for personal use (2) concealed the identity of contributors to the Thurston County Democrat’s Central Committee, and (3) improperly transferred his campaign contributions to another political committee.

Joe Hyer was Cooper’s Finance Chair for that campaign.

Cooper’s position on the Olympia City Council is up for election this year.

Hyer’s criminal past –

Joe Hyer was Olympia’s Mayor Pro Tem at the time of his 2010 arrest for felony drug dealing.  He pleaded guilty.

At the time of that arrest, Hyer had recently been appointed as Thurston County Treasurer by former Democratic County Commissioners Sandra Romero, Cathy Wolfe, and Karen Valenzuela.

Although Hyer resigned from those city and county positions after his arrest, he has remained an integral part of local Democratic politics.

Neither Hyer’s felony drug dealing nor his securities fraud appears to have hurt his reputation among local Democrats, including those who are elected officials.

The Thurston County Democrats pay Hyer Family Investments LLC $2,500 per month to lease their office space.  Hyer is also paid by the party for other expenses.

Besides being Finance Chair for Jim Cooper’s 2016 campaign, Joe Hyer is a regular donor to other Democrats’ campaigns.

Jim Cooper has made no apparent attempt to distance himself from Joe Hyer.  Instead, Cooper has used Hyer’s name to promote his own political career.

Jim Cooper used Joe Hyer in his 2016 campaign advertising, as shown in this snip from Cooper’s facebook page—a year after Cooper had pitched Hyer’s Olycentro in the local media.

Source – Jim Cooper’s 2016 campaign facebook page

 

Jim Cooper and Joe Hyer worked side by side in the Democrats’ burger booth at Lakefair 2016, as show in this snip from Hyer’s facebook page.

Source – Joe Hyer’s facebook page

The Olycentro Investment Scam Timeline – 

On April 26, 2010, KIRO TV quoted Joe Hyer after his guilty plea for felony drug dealing:

I will spend the rest of my life making atonement. Good deeds you can do in the future to make up for what you did wrong, and that’s what I want to focus on now,” Hyer said.

Hyer apparently chose to atone through securities fraud.

On December 5, 2014, the Washington Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) filed charges against Joe Hyer and Olycentro Inc. for violation of RCW 21.20, the state’s Securities Act.

Under the Act’s “Fraudulent and Other Prohibited Practices,” RCW 21.20.010 states:

It is unlawful for any person, in connection with the offer, sale or purchase of any security, directly or indirectly:

(1) To employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud;

(2) To make any untrue statement of a material fact or to omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they are made, not misleading; or

(3) To engage in any act, practice, or course of business which operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any person.

According to DFI’s uncontested charges, Hyer created his Olycentro investment scam to help pay off the $800,000 debt he had accrued from his earlier failed venture, Alpine Experience, which shut down one week before Centro opened.

According to DFI, Olycentro investors were fraudulently induced into investing in Hyer’s new group of businesses, which included Centro and Olympia Gear Exchange at the time of these charges.

These investors weren’t told that Hyer needed money to pay off his leftover debt—or that Hyer had no valid reason to state that his new corporation would be the wild success that he claimed in his investment inducements.

DFI stated that Hyer also had no valid reason to claim that he could pay investors the large dividends he used as an inducement.

DFI reported that Hyer broke other state securities laws, as well.

On April 20, 2015, Joe Hyer and Olycentro Inc. accepted a Consent Order by the Washington Department of Financial Institutions for violating the Washington Securities Act.

By accepting this Consent Order, Hyer waived his right to a hearing or a judicial review.  He didn’t contest the charges.

Hyer’s acceptance of this Consent Order occurred almost five years to the day after he had pleaded guilty to felony drug dealing, and made his statements about his atonement through future good deeds.

None of this prevented Jim Cooper from pitching  Hyer’s Olycentro as an up-and-coming great success in Olympia’s business community, in the midst of securities fraud charges that soon after were uncontested by Hyer.

Feature image of Jim Cooper (left) and Joe Hyer (right), from Joe Hyer’s public facebook page

— by Melissa Genson, CPA/CIA

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