MARTINEZ (CBS SF) – An electrician from Martinez has been ordered to pay $481 million in restitution and was sentenced to three years in federal prison in connection with a $1 billion Ponzi scheme.
According to federal prosecutors, 46-year-old Joseph W. Bayliss played a "key role" in a fraud scheme involving Benicia-based DC Solar and its owner, Jeff Carpoff.
Court documents said Bayliss posed as an engineer who inspected newly constructed mobile solar generator units, which were solar generators that were mounted on trailers and were promoted as able to provide emergency power to cellphone towers and lighting at sporting events.
The units were sold to investors who were given federal tax credits, but prosecutors said DC Solar became a fraud scheme that took new investor money to pay older investors. As DC solar lost money, the company stopped manufacturing the units and sold to investors thousands of units that in reality, did not exist.
Prosecutors said Bayliss signed thousands of reports stating that new solar power units were inspected and tested, knowing they were false. In turn, Bayliss received $1 million from Carpoff.
Bayliss also removed and replaced vehicle identification number (VIN) stickers affixed to the devices, court documents said. After agents served search warrants at the company, Bayliss was directed by Carpoff to travel to the company's warehouse in Nevada to destroy 1,000 VIN stickers and to scrape off 200 stickers off devices.
Last week, Carpoff was sentenced to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay $790.6 million in restitution after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
Prosecutors said he used the money to finance luxury homes and automobiles, along with the purchase of a minor league baseball team and the sponsorship of a NASCAR team.
"Jeff Carpoff orchestrated the largest criminal fraud scheme in the history of the Eastern District of California," acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said last week. "He claimed to be an innovator in alternative energy, but he was really just stealing money from investors and costing the American taxpayer hundreds of millions in tax credits."
Carpoff's wife, Paulette Carpoff, has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering in connection with the scam. Prosecutors said she is scheduled to be sentenced in March.
Other defendants, including 54-year-old Ronald J. Roach of Walnut Creek, 44-year-old Ryan Guidry of Pleasant Hill and 50-year-old Alan Hansen of Vacaville, have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in the coming months.
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