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Oregon Solar Firm Charged with Theft, Racketeering

solar panels2Showing that the renewable energy industry is not immune to the typical trappings of commerce, a central Oregon man has been charged with bilking customers, including businesses, of their investments toward renewable energy.

Companies including Pronghorn, Aspen Lakes Golf Course and Jeld-Wen, the developer of Brasada Ranch, may have been victims to the schemes, which may have operated in a pyramid-like structure in which projects of early investors were paid for with funds from later investors, reports the Bend Bulletin.

Operating under the names New Path Renewables, Pac-Wind OR LLC and Solect Systems Inc., Eric “Gabe” Wisehart allegedly committed more than $1 million in fraud. Wisehart was arraigned on 29 counts of theft, unlicensed construction work and racketeering.

In the racket, Wisehard is alleged to have collected full or partial payment upfront with the promise of installing solar or wind equipment, while in most cases never finishing the job. Other times, it’s alleged that after he completed a job he would later return and remove what equipment had been installed.

This is not the only example of fraud in the quickly growing renewable energy business, which is little regulated.

For instance, the accreditation of SGS UK, a carbon offset certifier, was suspended after accusations that its staff had not properly audited projects in carbon trading markets. It also was asserted that SGS’s auditors were not qualified to perform the audits.

In another British case, businesses that unknowingly participated in a suspected carbon trading scam could face millions of dollars in legal fees and penalties. Any company involved in the scheme may be subject to an audit.

Uncovered by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in January, this “carousel fraud” involves carbon offsets that are imported into Britain without paying value added taxes (VAT) and then sold to companies, each of which is liable to pay the standard rate of VAT on the purchase, which as of last year was 17.5 percent

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