Solar company executive sentenced to six years in prison for Ponzi scheme

A solar company executive has been sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay $624 million in restitution after being found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme.

Robert A Karmann, 55, of Clayton, Calif., has been convicted and fined for operating a Ponzi scheme using solar energy technology, the Department of Justice revealed on Tuesday.

Karmann, an accountant, was hired by DC Solar in 2014 to be its controller, then became its chief financial officer.

The company builds mobile solar generators that are mounted on trailers. These generators would have been sold to investors who benefited from significant federal tax credits. They were also led to believe that generators would be a technology in high demand and third parties would likely pay to rent the machines.

However, this demand never materialized and the company instead took money from new investors to pay older investors. The company allegedly attempted to disguise the transactions as legitimate rental income from third parties.

In addition to circular payments, DC Solar executives falsified financial documents and contracts. The company also sold units it never intended to build, eventually accepting payment for nearly 8,500 generators that never existed.

Company founder Jeff Carpoff, among other officials, was named a co-conspirator in the scheme.

Last year, Carpoff was sentenced to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay $790.6 million for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, according to the DoJ. His wife, Paulette Carpoff, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and money laundering. She will be sentenced on May 10, 2022.

“He claimed to be an alternative energy innovator, but was really just stealing money from investors and costing the American taxpayer hundreds of millions in tax credits,” said Phillip Talbert, U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of California.

The DoJ said Carpoff and his wife used the money they earned from the program to fund a life of luxury. They bought a minor league baseball team, sponsored a NASCAR race car, bought real estate, jewelry and luxury cars, including one formerly owned by Burt Reynolds.

Many other defendants linked to the scheme have pleaded guilty and are expected to be sentenced later this year.

Alan Hansen, 50, of Vacaville, is due April 26, 2022; Ronald J Roach, 54, of Walnut Creek, is due May 3, 2022; and Ryan Guidry, 44, of Pleasant Hill is scheduled to be sentenced on June 7, 2022.

The scheme was the largest case of criminal fraud in the district’s history. The district includes Sacramento and Fresno.

About the author