CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A Utah man who defrauded investors nationwide of more than $4.4 million by promoting investment in nonexistent wind farms in Wyoming and South Dakota must serve more than 12 years in prison, a federal judge ordered Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl heard hours of testimony in Casper from state and federal investigators before rejecting a claim from defendant Robert Arthur Reed, 53, of Salt Lake City, that he didn't deserve extra prison time for organizing the scam that claimed money from 83 victims.
Skavdahl called Reed a manipulative person and said it was clear he served as "puppeteer," directing others how to perpetuate the fraud.
Reed pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to launder money. Yet Reed persisted at Tuesday's sentencing hearing that while he was guilty of moral failings, he and other co-defendants were arrested before they committed crimes.
Reed said the unsuspecting people who sent in their money in response to telephone solicitations had agreed to lend it to a wind farm development company for three years. He said he was a consultant to the company, and that the three-year loan period hadn't run out before he and the others were arrested.
Victims were told they had to make a minimum investment of $25,000, an indictment states. Prosecutors charged that Reed and co-defendants used personal aliases and the company names of Mountain State Power Group, Mountain State Power and Sovereign Energy Partners in the scheme.
"I believe, and I believe the evidence shows — it's actually uncontroverted — that Mountain State Power borrowed money," Reed said.
According to court records, Reed and others acquired land near Casper and in Butte County, S.D., to satisfy investors that the projects were moving forward with construction of the promised wind farms. They put up signs at the South Dakota site and took pictures of contractors they hired to push dirt around to make it appear construction was ongoing, prosecutors said.
Skavdahl approved a request from prosecutors to forfeit investment accounts, real estate and a high-end motor home that they said had been purchased with proceeds from the fraud. A state investigator testified that Reed had exclusive control of company bank accounts.
Lisa Leschuck, a federal prosecutor, told Skavdahl it was clear from Reed's testimony that he was a sociopath. She urged the judge to depart upward from federal sentencing guidelines and sentence Reed to 15 years in prison.