The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday charged a California-based couple with orchestrating a nearly billion-dollar Ponzi scheme involving alternative energy tax credits.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Jeffrey and Paulette Carpoff raised approximately $910 million from 17 investors between 2011 and 2018 by offering securities in the form of investment contracts through their two solar generator companies, DC Solar Solutions Inc. and DC Solar Distribution Inc.
“The Carpoffs allegedly promised investors tax credits, lease payments, and profits from the operation of mobile solar generators,” according to the SEC complaint.
In reality, the complaint alleges, most of the generators were never manufactured, and the vast majority of the purported lease revenue paid to investors in fact came from new investor funds.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California announced criminal charges against Jeffrey and Paulette Carpoff the same day.
As part of the scheme, the Carpoffs arranged for investors to receive false documents, including financial statements, lease arrangements and generator certifications.
Throughout the scheme, the Carpoffs allegedly siphoned off investor funds and used at least $140 million of investor money to fund their lavish lifestyle, which included 150 luxury and sports cars, dozens of properties, and a share in a private jet service, the complaint states.
“While the Carpoffs’ pitch to investors seemed new and innovative, their alleged fraud was old and simple,” said Daniel Michael, chief of the Enforcement Division’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit. “This case is a reminder that fraudsters often try to lure investors by associating themselves with trendy technologies.”
The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Sacramento, charges the Carpoffs with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement and civil penalties. The defendants have consented to permanent injunctions, with monetary relief to be determined by the court at a later date.
The SEC previously charged three other defendants in this matter.