In May of last year, pv magazine reported on the alleged Ponzi scheme launched by the founders of DC Solar, a Northern California solar generator firm raided by the FBI in 2018.
That story ended with the auction at the company’s Benicia, California headquarters of more than 16,000 Talesun and Renesola PV modules and 2,000 SMA inverters, part of about $50 million in solar hardware used in the firm’s trailer-mounted solar generator business.
DC Solar filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 and later converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation.
An FBI agent testified that the firm significantly overstated the sales and revenue of solar generators that it actually built. An absence of lease revenue was covered up with money from other investors, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.
This most recent chapter finds the owners of DC Solar facing steep prison sentences.
On Friday, as reported by The Mercury News and Bloomberg, Jeff and Paulette Carpoff, the owners of DC Solar, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in a Ponzi scheme that pulled in more than $900 million. Jeff Carpoff faces up to 30 years in jail, while Paulette Carpoff confronts up to 15 years. Other co-conspirators also pleaded guilty.
According to Bloomberg, the Carpoffs, along with their co-conspirators, “oversold, making transactions to sell $2.5 billion worth of solar panels, or 17,000 units. They didn’t have that many to give to clients, so they tried to dupe inspectors by switching serial numbers around on their existing stock, prosecutors say.”
The firm attracted a number of investor victims including Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, which invested $340 million to garner federal tax benefits in tax-equity funds.
According to reports, a sum of $500 million was returned to the U.S. Treasury through the sale of 150 classic and valuable cars, along with homes in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and the Caribbean. Other sybaritic pursuits funded by the Ponzi scheme included Nascar sponsorships; a private jet service; a Raiders luxury box; and a private 2018 holiday concert by Pitbull.