Excelsior renewable energy business owner convicted of $13M fraud scheme
A federal jury on Wednesday convicted the owner of an Excelsior renewable energy firm of multiple fraud charges in connection with bilking more than 70 customers out of millions of dollars for wind turbines they never received.
Prosecutors charged Shawn Robert Dooling, 52, last year after an FBI investigation, alleging that he used his Renewable Energy SD, LLC, to draw more than $13 million in payments from customers to whom he did not refund for failing to deliver wind turbines ordered between 2010 and 2013.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Surya Saxena, who helped prosecute the case, said in a statement that Dooling wanted to live a life of luxury without earning the money to pay for it, so he lied to and stole from people who trusted him, most of whom were hardworking farmers.
A message was left seeking comment Thursday from Doolings attorney, Andrew Birrell. When a grand jury indicted Dooling in April 2017, Birrell argued that his client was an honest business person who poured his heart and soul and hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into his alternative-energy wind turbine company, only to lose it all when a dishonest supplier in New Jersey, to whom Shawns company advanced at least $4.5 million, failed to deliver turbines as promised and as required by contract.
But prosecutors were able to convince jurors this week that Dooling carried out a yearslong scheme that primarily victimized farmers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. While the farmers waited for wind turbines to be erected on their land, prosecutors said, Dooling pulled $2 million from his companys bank accounts to pay for luxury automobiles, travel and college tuition payments for his son. Dooling also diverted payments to cover the costs of other customers projects, according to the charges.
Before being hit by criminal charges, Dooling was the subject of frequent litigation over his business practices and failure to pay personal debts. In 2013, state Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Dooling and his company and obtained an injunction to halt it from selling equipment. In June 2013, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy litigation. Swanson later referred the matter to criminal authorities.
Throughout the scheme, authorities said, Dooling blamed the no-show turbines on third-party manufacturer delays and otherwise lied about the status of their orders. Jurors convicted Dooling after a six-day trial in Minneapolis of multiple mail and wire fraud counts and one count of engaging in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property. He is now free on bond while awaiting sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, who yet to schedule a sentencing hearing.
We are grateful for the work of the jury who deliberated this case and saw what we saw, and that was a scheme crafted by Mr. Dooling to defraud innocent and well intentioned investors of their hard earned money with the empty promise of energy efficiency that would never come to be, said Jill Sanborn, Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis Division of the FBI in a statement following the verdict.
Staff Writer Mike Hughlett contributed to this report.
Stephen Montemayor 612-673-1755