SEC investigating Mesa Energy Holdings

Mesa Energy Holdings Inc., which was the subject of a Sharesleuth story in April, is facing a formal Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.

Mesa (OTCBB: MSEH.OB) said in a public filing that the SEC appears to be investigating whether the company or its predecessor, Mesquite Mining Inc., was involved in any improper sales of unregistered securities.

The Dallas-based company said the SEC also is examining whether Mesquite made any false or misleading statements

Sharesleuth’s story called attention to an unusual deal in which Mesa – which was already listed on the Pink Sheets – did a reverse merger with Mesquite Mining, a publicly held shell company.

That transaction put 14 million virtually free shares of Mesa into the hands of four investors from the Mesquite Mining side of the transaction.

Mesa’s stock rose from 50 cents a share to a high of $3.50, aided by an extensive and expensive promotional campaign. The company also recruited several high-profile individuals, including former New York Gov. George Pataki, to serve on a newly created advisory board.

Later SEC filings showed that the four entities that got large blocks of Mesa stock through the reverse merger sold or transferred at least 6 million of their shares during or after the price surge.

One of the four entities was Gottbetter Capital Group Inc., headed by New York lawyer Adam S. Gottbetter, whose firms have provided securities work and investment banking to Mesa. Another was Marlifran Investments LLC, a New Jersey company that Sharesleuth linked to Samuel DelPresto, a former stockbroker and convicted felon who was barred from the securities industry for his role in a fraud and manipulation scheme that cost investors more than $100 million.

Mesa said it was cooperating with the SEC, and that it was confident that “no improper sales of unregistered securities were made by current officers, directors or employees of the Company or its subsidiaries.”