Invest In Freedonia!

Ah, royalty. Elizabeth I. Louis XIV. And Prince Lazarus R. Long, ruler of New Utopia!

But the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission isn't hailing new nobility. It's busting frauds who declare independent nations in cyberspace and then sell bogus investments. Prince Long, once Howard Turney of Tulsa, ran one of three such scams that were shut down this year. They were all pretty outlandish: New Utopia was to be built on piers off the Caymans, the Kingdom of EnenKio tried to sell $1 billion in war bonds, and the Dominion of Melchizedek claimed control of Antarctica.

How can this work? Blame slick online presentations. "The Net lends an air of credibility to things that otherwise seem ludicrous," says David M. Levine, senior adviser in the SEC's Enforcement Division. The SEC says victims sent $1.2 million to what they thought was a Melchizedek-chartered bank, and Turney raised $24,000. Us, we're saving our money for TV rights to the royal weddings.

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