(STL.News) – On Monday, U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez ordered the final forfeiture of $3.9 million in private jet shares bringing the total court-ordered forfeiture this year to more than $54 million related to the DC Solar Ponzi scheme, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
The assets were seized in the fraud prosecution of the owners of DC Solar, a Benicia-based company, who pleaded guilty in January to charges related to a billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Monday’s order follows an earlier order, on March 24, ordering the final forfeiture of 83 seized assets worth more than $50 million. In total, $120 million in assets have been forfeited so far by the defendants in this investigation and prosecution, which has resulted in the largest criminal forfeiture in the history of the Eastern District of California.
Jeff Carpoff, 49, of Martinez, pleaded guilty on Jan. 24 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. His wife, Paulette Carpoff, 46, pleaded guilty the same day to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and money laundering. According to court documents, between 2011 and 2018, DC Solar manufactured mobile solar generator units (MSG), solar generators that were mounted on trailers and promoted as providing emergency power to cellphone towers and lighting at sporting events. A significant incentive for investors were generous federal tax credits due to the solar nature of the mobile units.
The conspirators pulled off their scheme by selling solar generators that did not exist to investors, making it appear that solar generators existed in locations that they did not, creating false financial statements, and obtaining false lease contracts, among other efforts to conceal the fraud. In reality, at least half of the approximately 17,000 solar generators claimed to have been manufactured by DC Solar did not exist.
U.S. Attorney Scott stated: “This billion dollar Ponzi scheme hurt investors and took money from the United States Treasury. This case represents not only the largest criminal fraud scheme in the history of the District, it also represents the District’s largest criminal forfeiture. All of the more than $120 million in forfeited assets will be returned to the victims. These final forfeiture orders make clear that criminals engaged in fraud risk their freedom and won’t be able to profit from their crimes because federal investigators and prosecutors will make every effort to locate and seize their ill-gotten fortunes to help make victims whole.”
The forfeitures in this investigation included the seizure and auction of 148 of the Carpoffs’ luxury and collector vehicles that resulted in recouping over $8.2 million for victims. Jeff and Paulette Carpoff used money from the scheme to pay for a minor-league professional baseball team and a NASCAR racecar sponsorship; to purchase luxury real estate in California, Nevada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and elsewhere; a subscription private jet service; a suite at a professional football stadium; and jewelry.
Four defendants have previously pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges related to the fraud scheme since October 2019. Joseph W. Bayliss, 44, of Martinez, and Ronald J. Roach, of Walnut Creek, each pleaded guilty to related charges on Oct. 22, 2019. Robert A. Karmann, 53, of Clayton, pleaded guilty to related charges on Dec. 17, 2019. Ryan Guidry, 53, of Pleasant Hill, pleaded guilty to related charges on Jan. 14. A seventh co-conspirator is scheduled to plead guilty on June 16. The investigation into the fraud remains ongoing.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS?Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys André M. Espinosa and Kevin C. Khasigian are prosecuting the case.
Jeff and Paulette Carpoff are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez on May 19. Jeff Carpoff faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison. Paulette Carpoff faces a maximum statutory penalty of 15 years in prison. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.