August 12, 2017

Acton couple charged with fraud allegedly received more than $8m in clean energy grants

By Danny McDonald and Martin Finucane, Globe Staff | The Boston Globe | August 11, 2017 |

An Acton couple is facing charges that they tried to defraud the federal government of more than $50 million in clean energy grants from the economic stimulus bill that was passed in response to the Great Recession, according to the US attorney’s office.

Christopher N. Condron, 45, and Jessica Metivier, 41, allegedly received grants totaling more than $8 million from the program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

They have been indicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims, and three counts of wire fraud, prosecutors said in a statement.

They were arrested Thursday and released on conditions following an appearance in US District Court in Boston. Condron’s attorney, Francis J. DiMento, had no comment Friday afternoon. Metivier’s attorney, Scott Lauer, said, “She takes the case seriously, and she intends to plead not guilty at her upcoming arraignment.”

The couple allegedly submitted fake applications to the US Treasury Department for tax-free grants available to help fund clean energy projects, such as a wind farm or a trash-to-energy facility.

From May 2009 to June 2013, Condron and Metivier submitted fake grant applications on behalf of four different Massachusetts companies: Acton Bio Energy, Concord Nurseries, Kansas Green Energy, and Ocean Wave Energy, prosecutors said.

In each application, the couple claimed that Metivier bought, activated, or started to build a clean energy project.

The value of the projects they were listing on their applications totaled $170 million.

The projects that they claimed they were undertaking included three biofuel gasification systems, at a cost of $88 million, and a wind farm project that cost $84 million, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the couple got help from an attorney and a “close family member” of Condron’s. Neither of them was named in the indictment.

In the case of the wind farm, according to the indictment, Ocean Wave Energy claimed that it had started construction on a wind farm project of 58 small wind turbines in the Hyannis section of Barnstable by Dec. 30, 2011.

The company, which requested a grant of more than $25 million, also reported that it had installed two wind turbines at a Hyannis location aboard a floating barge.

Elizabeth Jenkins, director of planning and development in Barnstable, said she had never heard of such a project. “I’m not sure where you would put an $84 million wind farm,” she said Friday. “There were certainly no applications or public meetings or anything that rose to that level regarding such a project.”

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