Investor Sues Art Dula, Excalibur Almaz for Alleged Fraud

Artist's conception of the private Excalibur Almaz space station in orbit. (Credit: Excalibur Almaz)Via Clark Lindsey at NewSpace Watch: A Texas woman has sued Art Dula and Excalibur Almaz over for allegedly defrauding her and her late husband in an asteroid mining scheme:

Donna Beck sued Houston patent attorney Arthur Dula, his companies Excalibur Exploration Limited, Excalibur Limited, Excalibur Almaz Limited and Excalibur Almaz USA Inc., and Excalibur directors J. Buckner Hightower and Christopher Stott, in Harris County Court.

“Dula defrauded Beck by inducing her and her husband (since deceased) to advance $300,000, and later purchase an investment in Excalibur Exploration Limited, one of the Excalibur entities, with the fundamental false representation that the company had the technical expertise and associations to develop a business to fly the first commercial prospecting space flight to an asteroid,” the complaint states.

“Dula bolstered his lies by representing that his other companies had the spacecraft to accomplish the job, as well as associations with other necessary contractors.

“In fact, the entire operation was a sham and never accomplished anything of substance.

“Dula spent Beck’s money even before Excalibur Exploration Limited was formed to pay for a project that Dula and his associates had previously earmarked as an expense for another related company, until they got lucky and got Beck’s check and switched the obligation to her.”

This is the first I have heard that Excalibur Almaz was working on asteroid mining. The company’s plans for its Soviet-era space station and capsule hardware have changed several times over the years. Proposals have included an orbiting space station/tourism destination, transportation for NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, and (most recently) a plan for servicing cis-lunar space.

Interestingly, the suit claims that Dula said he had already raised $50 million for the venture. It also alleges that Excalibur Mines had the “right of first refusal” for using the VASMIR engine being developed by Ad Astra Rocket Company for asteroid mining.

Buckner Hightower was appointed CEO of Excalibur Almaz USA in May 2011. Defendant Chris Stott is the husband of American astronaut Nicole Stott.

Read the full story.

  • David L. Rickman

    I’ve been rather busy the past 24 hours, contacting parties involved with Excalibur Almaz and Excalibur Exploration. As a result, I have received information regarding this lawsuit, current standing, and future plans of Excalibur Exploration, as well as Excalibur Almaz and their current relationship with NPO Mashinostroyenia.

    As it turns out, the business relationship between both companies has been, and is still mutually beneficial, with NPO Mash providing Excalibur Almaz a great deal of data and information on the Almaz Reusable Return Vehicles and Almaz Orbital Stations purchased by Excalibur Almaz. In fact, what was labelled as “Reverse Engineering” by Creaform turned out to be an exercise in conjunction with the International Space University to determine how much could be independently verified using laser measurements. These measurements were additionally used to make an accurate training replica of the Almaz capsule. This training capsule focuses on the capsules internal arrangement, and is currently housed in Houston, Texas.

    The reality is that, due to the military origins of the Almaz program and its’ components, the transfer of most of the technical information about the Almaz equipment and design are restricted by the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (otherwise known to most of us as ITAR). While the restrictions placed on corporations by ITAR may seem to be something that would have been substantially lifted with the end of the Cold War, since 1999 the State Department has published dozens of separate violations of ITAR by many U.S. corporations including Boeing, ITT, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, and Northrop Grumman.

    Excalibur Almaz’s Public Relations Director, Rob Lazaro, informed me that, regarding Almaz images and related information “… we have a lot more flexibility in the European Union than here in the states due to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regulations.” He further explained that Excalibur Almaz is “… trying to get as much of this information out as the regulations allow but unfortunately (we) have additional challenges that the other commercial space companies that are building hardware from scratch do not have because of EA’s unique program history.” (emphasis added) Through direct communication with Art Dula, I was also made privy to some additional personal information, which not only also greatly explain apparent lapses in the progress of Excalibur Almaz, but also illustrate how well this company is able to go into, and maintain their “stealth mode”.

    The recent lawsuit was also incorrectly reported to be against Excalibur Almaz. It is actually brought against Excalibur Exploration (EE), and has nothing to do with Excalibur Almaz. The lawsuit was brought by Donna Beck, a long term investor in Excalibur Exploration. Art Dula explained to me that the facts alleged in the complaint are not accurate, and that representatives for Excalibur Exploration will be able to prove this in court.

    According to Art Dula, “Excalibur Exploration is an active company in good standing which has purchased two excellent phase A asteroid mission studies (one from MDA of Canada, one from Ad Astra Rocket Company of Houston).” He also stated that Excalibur Exploration, “… also bought the right of first refusal to use the VASIMR rocket engine for space resource recovery.”

    Chris Holland – the In-house lawyer and Council for Excalibur Almaz had this to say concerning the lawsuit, “Ms. Beck and her husband were both involved in the investment discussions. Mr. Beck’s passing is sad, but Ms. Beck led the effort for the two of them and she is a savvy person and an informed investor. She represented to EE in writing that she had opportunity to have her own professional and independent analysis of the investment prior to her commitment. She also represented in writing that she understood this will be a long term investment. She was a Founder and sat on the Board. EE is an ongoing concern and data thus far produced will benefit all who share in the vision to exploit the vital resources above our heads.”

    Art Dula added this sentiment, “Ms. Beck made a long term investment. I deeply regret that she is so unhappy that she brought this lawsuit.”

    My personal take on the situation is that this IS a simple frivolous lawsuit, which ultimately will not affect the future of Excalibur Exploration, or Excalibur Almaz.

    Best Regards,

    David L. Rickman
    549 Caribou Road
    Asheville, NC 28803
    USA

  • How many people do you know who would consider the loss of $300,000 to be frivolous?

  • David L. Rickman

    The lawsuit is what I believe is “frivolous”. The reality is that this couple had $300,000 which they put into a long-term investment.

    I call it frivolous because the lawyer for Ms. Beck should already know that this is a case he won’t win.

    If a lawyer takes on a case which he/she knows they will not be able to win, but also knows he/she will get paid anyway, then it would be a question of “who is taking advantage of whom?”

    Best Regards,

    David L. Rickman
    549 Caribou Road
    Asheville, NC 28803
    USA