We have an update to our KELOLAND News investigation into Global Aquaponics.
The head of the company is blaming a "media circus" for an inability to raise funds and says it's now moving out of its luxury office in downtown Sioux Falls.
But that's not all.
KELOLAND Investigates first brought you our year-long investigation into Global Aquaponics back in August.
We exposed the broken promises of company officials to build an $8 million fish farm and vegetable growing operation just outside of Brookings.
Global Aquaponics leader Tobias Ritesman claimed to have an MBA from UCLA and that he'd done consulting for major corporations. We discovered none of those claims were true and the background of another company leader, Andre Grant, was also fake.
We also exposed how Global Aquaponics claimed it was going to work with SDSU on the project, but that wasn't true either.
At the groundbreaking of the project, Tobias Ritesman told us the company had raised $2 million
Kennecke: Have you gotten all those investors? Have you gotten $2 million?
Ritesman: "Oh yeah. We wanted to get as many local people involved in some of our projects and stuff like that."
Kennecke: "Have you raised more than $2 million?"
Two weeks later when we toured the empty Global Aquaponics office, the CEO at the time told us even more money had been raised.
"We've raised $5 million," Haverhals said.
However, now in a letter to investors, obtained by KELOLAND News, Ritesman says the company is cutting its overhead and moving out of its fancy Sioux Falls office.
In the letter, Ritesman blames a "media circus" for making it: "extremely difficult for Global Aquaponics Inc. to continue doing any fund raising for additional investors in the project."
Despite the fact that KELOALND News was told the company had raised either $2 or $5 million dollars, Ritesman now says;
"Our primary investor reneged their commitment to provide funding for the parent company."
Ritesman does not indicate where the company is moving to only saying:
"…opening of the project has been delayed indefinitely."
Ritesman tells investors in the letter it has filed:
"phase two (of its) Placement Memorandum with the state to allow us to continue to solicit investors in the Brookings project, and we are awaiting word on the status of that document."
As KELOLAND Investigates has reported, Global Aquaponics was required to file what's called a "Private Placement Memorandum" with the state to raise money from investors in South Dakota. We discovered that Tobias Ritesman had done that in 2014 and 2016 for the very same project, but never filed the required follow-up reports of how much money had been raised or who was investing in the project. Therefore it would be illegal for Global Aquaponics to ask for money from investors at this time.
KELOLAND Investigates called the South Dakota Division of Securities to ask if Global Aquaponics would be allowed to keep trying to get money from investors in the state.
Despite what Ritesman said in his letter, the Division tells us it has not received a new private placement filing from the company.
Lloyd Companies manages the office building on Minnesota Avenue and tells us it has received no notice from the company that Global Aquaponics is moving out. Global Aquaponics signed a lease a little more than a year and a half ago.
KELOLAND Investigates also attempted to contact Tobias Ritesman but did not get a response.
As KELOLAND Investigates reported earlier, the FBI has been investigating the company's business dealings. A confidential source who was interviewed by the FBI says he was told indictments against Ritesman and others involved in the hydroponics facility are expected to be handed down within weeks.
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