Falcor may soon be the last line of defense in the War Against Terror
GlobeTel is a Pembroke Pines company that first appeared on the local radar a few years ago, when it was promising to fill South Florida airspace with sci-fi machines called "stratellites" -- a clunky combination of a light airship and satellite that looked like a blimp. These vessels would float at low altitude in the stratosphere and provide wireless internet service even in remote reaches of the planet. This little company claimed to be working on projects that seemed more suited for, oh I don't know -- NASA?
Things looked shaky for GlobeTel even back then. Although the company was raking in millions of dollars from investors, it didn't even have a sample airship available for prospective investors to see. All it had was a stratellite in California that could fly at an altitude of 100 feet -- on a tether. A group of investors soon got skittish and, looking to cut their losses, they filed a class action lawsuit. For more on that case, see the feature story published here two years ago.
Turns out the lawsuit was only the beginning of GlobeTel's legal morass.
In May 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged three company principals with accounting fraud and unregistered stock sales. Two of those reached deals with the SEC. On Monday, the U.S. attorney's office announced that the one holdout -- Globetel's former CFO, Thomas Jimenez -- entered a guilty plea to tax fraud. He and other corporate officers took $2.79 million through sales of company stock. They disguised the money as collateral for loans, and Jimenez never reported it to the IRS. (Their maneuvers are explained in more detail here.) He faces three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. No sentencing date has been set.
As for GlobeTel, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Jonathan Leinwand has taken over the company and is operating it under the name Sanswire-TAO in conjuction with an operation based in Stuttgart, Germany. The company seems to have switched its focus from providing worldwide internet access (um, good thing, since that is now possible with a small gadget from Radio Shack, no giant airships required). The new business plan seems much more legit: Sanswire's developing unmanned, solar-powered vessels to be used for homeland security, search and rescue missions, and disaster recovery, such as dropping food packets when global warming really starts to mess things up.
If this video is any indication, the future of flight looks like some dudes flying a loud, remote-controlled paper condom through the sky.
Wait! We've seen this technology before. My first wish is...