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Federal wind energy grant paid for shopping sprees and vacations, accountant says  

Credit:  Aug 14 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Ricardo Gandara Austin American-Statesman via www.renewablesbiz.com ~~

Pieces of a $2 million federal grant to bring wind energy to Jonestown filtered through several bank accounts and ultimately into Charles Malouff’s pocket, paying for clothing, motorcycle accessories and trips to Colorado, New Mexico and Florida with his girlfriend, an accountant testified Tuesday.

Malouff, 55, is accused of falsifying documents to obtain the federal stimulus grant in 2009, with the promise of bringing energy savings and green jobs to Jonestown. When allegations of fraud surfaced, it was Robin Timmins’ job to “chase the money,” and the former accountant for the Travis County district attorney’s office said the trail led to four businesses and two personal bank accounts.

“It is not unusual to set up companies for a transfer of funds. It facilitates not being accountable for how money is spent,” said Timmins, who now works in the Rio Grande Valley. “They transferred money from (Malouff’s companies) CM Energies to CM Energies International, and some of it was on personal expenses like meals and expenditures at a Harley-Davidson shop and Sassy Lassie,” a women’s boutique.

Timmins’ testimony drew heated objections from defense attorney Jackie Wood, who said she had not received the detailed spreadsheets showing the alleged expenditures. District Judge Karen Sage dismissed the jury for the day and allowed the attorneys to argue.

Assistant District Attorney Holly Taylor acknowledged that some of Timmins’ evidence was new to her as well, and promised to get Wood all of the information. The judge said she was prepared to temporarily suspend the trial to give Wood time to review the evidence.

Timmins’ testimony also painted a cozy business relationship between Malouff and Mary Jo Woodall, 57, who was employed as a grant administrator with the Texas comptroller’s office, the agency that reviewed federal stimulus grant applications. Earlier witnesses said the two had a romantic relationship. Timmins said Woodall wrote Malouff a $2,500 check in May 2007 with “wind energy shares” in the memo line. She gave him another $800 two months later for an unspecified reason.

Prosecutors say Woodall guided Malouff in the grant process. The city of Jonestown then submitted the application to the state, which approved federal stimulus funding for the project. Malouff’s company, CM Energies, received $200,000 for studies and $1.8 million for the project, which was supposed to include 20 wind energy turbines. Ultimately, three turbines were installed, but they never operated.

Timmins testified that in September 2010, CM Energies and a partner named William Cornelius created Central Texas Plastics to purchase some of the materials for the turbines. Authorities say Central Texas Plastics operated out of a small house in Marble Falls. According to records filed with the secretary of state’s office, Cornelius amended his business filing about two weeks later to remove CM Energies as an owner.

Timmins detailed the flow of money from the State Energy Conservation Office to the city of Jonestown to CM Energies to Central Texas Plastics and then back to Malouff’s company. She said Central Texas Plastics submitted vouchers totaling $965,000 for work and materials but then sent most of the money – $670,000 in checks – back to Malouff’s company.

Malouff paid another company, Crescent Plastics of Indiana, $313,000 for actual wind turbine equipment, investigators said.

Earlier in the trial, Travis County sheriff’s Deputy Toby Miller said he gave Malouff $14,000 in exchange for a small share of CM Energies. Timmins said she found evidence that Malouff used some of the money to pay off a bank loan for his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Malouff is serving a 2 1/2 -year prison sentence for possession of a firearm and destructive devices, including hand grenades, by a felon. If convicted of securing execution of a document by deception, a first-degree felony, he could face up to life in prison.

Source:  Aug 14 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Ricardo Gandara Austin American-Statesman via www.renewablesbiz.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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