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Fugitive defendant in $70 million diamond mine stock scam case dies

Urban Casavant, a key defendant in a massive stock fraud case involving a Nevada-based diamond mining company, has died a fugitive in Canada, federal authorities confirmed Thursday.

Casavant, 57, the former chief executive officer of CMKM Diamonds, and several others were originally indicted by a Las Vegas federal grand jury in 2009 in a scheme to defraud tens of thousands of investors across the country through the sale of unregistered shares of the company’s stock.

Federal prosecutors later alleged in an 85-page superseding indictment in March 2010 that the scheme took in $70 million.

“Although CMKM Diamonds purported to be a diamond mining company, the company did not actually engage in any substantial mining activities, nor any economically viable business of any kind,” Internal Revenue Service Agent Bret Kressin wrote in a criminal complaint in a related case. “In reality CMKM Diamonds was a publicly traded corporate shell used to perpetuate a massive pump-and-dump securities fraud scheme …”

As part of the scheme, company officials issued more than 700 billion unregistered shares of CMKM stock,” the agent wrote.

Casavant died Feb. 14 in the city of Saskatoon in Central Canada, authorities said. The cause of his death is not clear.

He fled to Canada following his original indictment in 2009 and was fighting extradition to Las Vegas.

Federal authorities, including the IRS and Securities Exchange Commission, have been scrutinizing the company under Casavant’s leadership for years.

The criminal case has had other international overtones.

A couple of the defendants were arrested in the Netherlands and were brought back to Las Vegas, and another top former company official charged in the case, John M. Edwards, fled to London and is fighting extradition.

The case has moved slowly through the court system here during the extradition fights. Another defendant tied to the company, Helen Bagley, died weeks ago.

There is no firm trial date.

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