A wind farm in the southeastern Solano County community of Birds Landing was subject to $2.2 million in fraud by six defendants, according to an indictment on April 6 by a federal grand jury based on investigations by the FBI and IRS.
The men were involved in a “scheme that caused the generation of purchase orders for parts and services not actually needed at the wind farms,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice. Purchase orders were sent to three shell companies based in Arizona, set up by Paul Fournier, 34, a defendant from Scottsdale.
“The shell companies had no facilities and provided no actual products or services,” the DOJ alleged.
The shell companies then “submitted fraudulent invoices to the energy-generation company for undelivered products and unperformed services, and were paid on those invoices in an amount just under $2 million,” the DOJ alleged.
Another shell company called J. Eguiluz Labor Service LLC also submitted fraudulent invoices, the indictment said.
Other defendants are Timothy Chapin, 38, formerly of Latrop; Manuel Agueros, 37, formerly of Lathrop and Dodge City, Kan.; Jeffrey Reilley, 53, of Ripon; Jorge Eguiluz, 46, of Stockton; and Robert Lautenslager, 38, of Castro Valley.
Chapin is charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, 14 counts of wire fraud and three counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Agueros is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, and two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering;
Reilley is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and six counts of wire fraud.
Fournier is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Eguiluz is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Lautenslager is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“Chapin, Reilley, and Agueros all worked for a Florida-based energy generation company that operated wind farms in the Solano County town of Birds Landing,” according to the DOJ.
Windswept Birds Landing, population estimated at 150, is southeast of Fairfield. Windmill farms were established in Birds Landing more than a decade ago in a site called High Winds Energy Center, where nearly 100 wind turbines soar some 300 feet over fields of wheat.
Some of the high-efficiency turbines swivel based on wind direction and can generate electricity even when wind slows to a mere zephyr. Florida-based FPL Energy owned and operated High Winds. The turbines were developed by Vestas Wind Systems, based in Denmark.
According to its website, Florida Power & Light Company is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving nearly 10 million customers in about half of Florida. FPL is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE), a clean-energy company with estimated revenue of $16.2 billion that also owns NextEra Energy Resources, which, “with its affiliated entities is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun,” the FPL website said. NextEra draws electricity from eight commercial nuclear power units in Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa and Wisconsin.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Money-laundering charges are subject to fines of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering transactions.
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