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Wind energy businessman convicted of defrauding investors

A federal jury convicted a wind energy company’s founder for overselling a Minnesota project to investors and not telling them that he was under criminal investigation.

Gregory Joseph Jaunich, 52 of North Oaks, was found guilty of five counts of mail fraud, Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney’s office said Wednesday.

From October 2006 through January 2007, Jaunich use $1.5 million from investors to pay for personal expenses and projects other than the Clay County wind project he was pitching through his company, Averill Wind.

Prosecutors said he lied about progress on the project and didn’t tell investors that the feds were investigating whether he fraudulently overbilled Xcel Energy for wind energy production.

Jaunich was previously president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Navitas Energy Inc., which did business with Xcel.

To keep the scheme going, he mailed misleading letters to Averill investors in 2007 and 2008.

Each count of mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge John Tunheim will sentence him at a hearing that has not yet been scheduled.

Jaunich was sentenced to 21 months in prison in the Xcel overbilling case, the Star Tribune reported.